Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 Japan Earthquake, Tsunami One of the Worst in History?

 The devastation for the 8.9 magnitude Japanese earthquake and its sister tsunami has yet to be fully determined, but fortunately for the people of Japan and all other affected areas within reach of the tsunami, it doesn't appear as if the death toll will reach the horrific totals that were reached during Japan's most deadly seismic event, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, where over 133,000 people were killed. Nor does it appear that it will approach the even more catastrophic event in 2004, when an earthquake centered off the coast of Sumatra generated a tsunami that ultimately killed over 300,000 people and affected dozens of countries. In fact, the 2011 Sendai Earthquake tsunami, although it peaked at 33 feet as it rolled inland through Japan and caused damage as far away as the Pacific Coast of the United States, might not even register as one of the five worst in history.

Five of the worst recorded tsunamis throughout history:

* Krakatoa, 1883. The worst tsunami ever was recorded in 1833 following the eruption of Krakatoa. The Indonesia volcanic island erupted with such force that it destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa. According to the Christian Science Monitor, nearly 40,000 people in Java and Sumatra were killed by the event and the resulting tsunami, which reached cresting heights up to 130 feet.

* Nankaido, Japan, 1498. Just six years after Columbus set sail toward the Americas, Japan experienced a massive 8.6 magnitude earthquake that sent a tsunami towering 56 feet into the air and crashing into Nankaido. According to the National Geophysical Data Center, 31,000 people lost their lives.

* Lisbon, Portugal, 1755. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the Atlantic Ocean in 1755 that generated a wave that crested at 40 to 60 feet. According to "The Tsunami Page," the wall of water crashed down onto Portugal's capital city of Lisbon, devastating the city and its surroundings. It is estimated that over 90,000 people were killed, with an additional 10,000 killed in Morocco.

* Messina, Italy, 1908. A 7.5 earthquake hit in the Straits of Messina, between the island of Sicily and Calabria, Italy. The resulting tsunami crested at 40 feet and destroyed several Italian cities, like Messina and Reggio de Calabria. The earthquake and tsunami killed 80,000 people. Brittanica.com notes that the Messina Earthquake may have been the most powerful earthquake to have ever hit Europe.

* Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2004. A 9.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra island the day after Christmas in 2004 resulted in perhaps the deadliest earthquake and tsunami in history. Waves reached heights of up to 80 feet and the tsunami raced around the Indian Ocean, killing an estimated 300,000 people, according to AFP. The Indian Ocean Earthquake was the longest in recorded history, according to CNN, lasting between 500-600 seconds.

It should be noted that, as devastating as the tsunamis recorded as among the worst were, they were not responsible for the annihilation of an entire culture. According to the Dr. David Sewell, the Santorini eruption in the Mediterranean is believed by many scholars to have, along with release of volcanic material and the generation of tsunamis, either destroyed or contributed greatly in the decline and disappearance of the Minoan civilization that was centered on the island of Crete.

The 2011 Sendai Tsunami is estimated to have killed over 3600 people, according to Kyodo New Service of Japan, although the numbers could be far worse. Over 9,000 people in one village alone are unaccounted for and over 300,000 people have been evacuated from hard-hit regions. The earthquake, the epicenter of which was located 80 miles off the Japanese coast, is the strongest seismic event in Japan's history.

1 comment:

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