Monday, April 11, 2011

Powerful aftershock hits Japan on 1 month anniversary of fourth largest quake

One month ago the fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900 struck Japan bringing death and destruction to the nation.  Today the country was rocked by a significant aftershock and more evacuations around a stricken nuclear power plant were ordered.

At 5:16pm local time (8:16 UTC) a magnitude 6.6 temblor struck on Japan’s mainland 22 miles from Iwaki in the Fukushima prefecture.  The quake was felt across the island of Honshu including 100 miles away in Tokyo and at the severely damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to the north.

Landslides in the city of Iwaki brought on by the aftershock have trapped several people in three houses that were buried officials said.  Fires were burning in some parts of northeastern Japan and power was knocked out to 220,000 homes and businesses.

Immediately following the aftershock Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) ordered the workers at the power plant to evacuate to safer areas.  Power was briefly cut to the stricken plant but soon restored. 

Today’s aftershock follows on a more significant magnitude 7.4 aftershock last week.  Hundreds of smaller aftershocks have struck the region since last month’s magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami.

Officials recommend more evacuations to escape radiation threat

The Japanese government announced today that it was recommending that more residents in the area of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex evacuate due to the potential for long term health threats.  The new evacuations include the towns of Katsuo, Kawamata, Namie, Iitate and parts of Minami Soma.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, "This policy does not require immediate evacuation right away, but we take the long-term perspective, considering the long-term effect of radiation on your health.”

A 12 1/2 mile (20km) radius total evacuation zone has already been established around the failed nuclear power plant.  Residents living from 12 1/2 miles to 18 1/2 miles (30km) from the plant have been ordered to stay inside.

Death toll continues to climb

The death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami continues to climb.  The latest numbers from the National Police Agency of Japan report 13,130 have been confirmed killed.  An additional 13,718 are still missing and are largely expected to not be found and added to the death toll.

Rebuilding of the nation, particularly along the coastal regions where the tsunami sent a wall of water far inland, will be a long and difficult task.  More than 48,00 structures were totally destroyed by the quake and tsunami and an additional 152,000 were damaged. 

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake now ranks as the fourth largest in the world since 1900 and the most powerful to strike Japan since instrumented readings began.  It is likely that when the final death toll is realized the event will be Japan's fourth deadliest quake in history.

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