On 11 March 2011, Japan was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 – the biggest in the nation’s recorded history and one of the five most powerful recorded ever around the world. The epicentre was located about 70km east of Tohoku in Miyagi prefecture, north-eastern Japan. The six-minute-long tremor and its thousands of aftershocks shook buildings across much of northern Japan and the nation’s capital.
The energy released by the earthquake produced a huge tsunami. Within an hour of the earthquake, towns lining the shore were flattened by the massive waves. Waves towering four-to-five-metres-high crashed through homes and fields, and engulfed fleeing vehicles. In Iwate prefecture’s Miyako city, the tsunami reached as high as 40 metres.
The tsunami killed more than 15,000 people. More than 65% of casualties were elderly men and women who were not able to run to higher ground or swim to safety.