Friday, March 11, 2011

Major Earthquake Hits Japan


Tokyo--The quake that hit Japan was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit the country since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s, and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake struck at a depth of six miles, about 80 miles off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles northeast of Tokyo.

A tsunami warning was extended to a number of Pacific, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, including Japan, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Chile. In the Philippines, authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal communities.

“Japan’s earthquake will be considered a great quake,” said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the Geological Survey in Golden, Colo.

Damage from such a quake can span hundreds to thousands of miles.

A few days earlier, Japan was hit with a 7.2 earthquake. “A 7.2 quake has 80 or 90 times less energy than an 8.9 quake,” Grant said.

As of 3 a.m. Chicago time, there were at least 12 aftershocks following the earthquake, with the greatest aftershocks measuring 7.1 and 6.8, Grant said.

“This is what we’d expect from an 8.9 earthquake.”

The greater concern is the tsunami triggered by the quake, he said. “Tsunamis can travel up to 450 miles per hour,” he said.

“Warnings have been issued for the Hawaiian Islands,” he said. “We’ll probably see an impact.”

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