The Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan’s Tōhoku region ten years ago on March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. Japan Time (March 10, 9:46 p.m. Pacific Time).
15,900 people died from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. 9,500 people were missing in the aftermath of the disaster. A decade later, 2,500 people are still unaccounted for. More than 450,000 people became homeless as a result of the tsunami.
It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan and the fourth most powerful recorded earthquake in the world. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that may have reached heights of up to 133 feet and traveled at 435 mph up to six miles inland.
The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents.
The World Bank’s estimated economic cost was $235 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in history.
Incredible progress has been made, but the area and its people have not fully recovered. Survivors continue to mourn the loss of their families and loved ones. A phone booth in a garden on a hill in the Japanese village of Otsuchi allows “phone calls” to those who perished. There have been 240 suicides in the past decade thought to be connected with the disaster. The nuclear power plant meltdown left large areas of mountains and forest that cannot be cleared of radioactive material. Entire towns remain unsafe.
Following the disaster, Minami Tamaki joined relief efforts led by JCCCNC and helped raise $490,000 in combined donations and matches. We received thousands of donations from individuals and from dozens of the professional, community and student organizations that hosted their own fundraising efforts.
The activities were so heartwarming: a 15-year-old student who organized her own concert; numerous t-shirt sales; restaurants donating a percentage of their profits; elementary school students dipping into their piggy banks and donating pounds of coins and even their birthday money; and even preschoolers and their families organizing a garage sale.
We remain grateful to this day for the incredible generosity and outpouring of support of those who contributed.
Tomorrow, March 11, at 3 p.m. Pacific Time, the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco will host a virtual event “Unshakable Friendship Beyond Borders: 10 Years Since the Great East Japan Earthquake” remember the victims of the disaster and to thank the people of the United States for their boundless support and encouragement. The program will include a minute of silence and feature inspiring stories of Japan-U.S. exchange following the disaster. The event is free and in English, but registration is required.