View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday 11 March - evening notes

The massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami had me glued to the TV and the internet all day. It was beyond comprehension to watch a wall of water creep inexorably over land, sweeping away everything, and I mean everything in its path. Japan has awoken to a new day, with hundreds or thousands dead or missing, fires continuing to blaze out of control and a dangerous situation at one of its nuclear powerstations. The cooling system in one nuclear powerplant failed after the quake, and the reactor core is thought to have overheated. Radiation levels around the site are reported to be 1,000 times above normal, according to Sky TV this evening. Aftershocks continue to hit Japan, some as strong as 6.6 on the Richter scale - that is higher than the quake that devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month. More than 140 aftershocks bigger than magnitude 5 have been reported since the main quake, which struck at 05.46 GMT this morning, with a magnitude of 8.9.

The tsunami is rolling across the Pacific Ocean, and its effects on smaller islands or atolls are presently not known. The height of the tsunami as it is presently hitting the US states of Oregon and California has surprised me, with one station reporting a 2.02 m (6.6 ft) surge. Several people are reported to have been swept out to sea as they tried to take pictures. As I type this (1430 PST), the tsunamis are still rolling ashore, so if you're on the Pacific coast, please be careful.

Friday 11 March

Awoke to the news of the massive earthquake in Japan, which has clocked in at magnitude 8.9. This is only marginally less strong than the 9.1 quake that produced a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004. This quake has produced tsunami waves of between 7 and 10 metres (24 to 33 feet), which have carried away anything in its path. This has varied from people to vehicles, boats and buildings. The pictures on NHK World, relayed through most broadcasters, are terrifying. The Japanese are used to earthquakes, but a near-9 is off their scale. As I type this, the tsunami is still rolling across the Pacific, currently affecting Indonesia. However, the tsunami warning extends right down the west coast of the entire American continent, with the wave currently closing in on Alaska.

A tsunami is not a wave, as you may see along the seashore. It is a wall of water. 

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is issuing hourly updates.
The WCATWC Warning Center covers the North American coastline, also hourly.

NHK World is carried on Sky TV (satellite, UK) channel 516.