News / Asia

Quake is Japan's Worst Natural Disaster in Nearly 100 Years

Fishing boats are swept by a tsunami in Oarai City in Ibaragi Prefecture, northeastern Japan March 11, 2011.
Fishing boats are swept by a tsunami in Oarai City in Ibaragi Prefecture, northeastern Japan March 11, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Victor BeattieSteve Herman

Japanese geologists have long forecasted a huge earthquake in Japan, and the country has been preparing for the "big one" for decades.

But the 8.9 magnitude quake that struck Friday off the coast of Honshu was far bigger than anticipated.

VOA's Bureau Chief in Seoul, Steve Herman, lived and reported for years from Japan.  He told VOA's Victor Beattie that Friday's quake is the worst natural disaster to hit Japan in nearly 100 years.

"It's almost unbelievable to see what has been happening to Japan's northern pacific coast today. It is the worst disaster Japan has faced since World War II. What has happened is that the big quake that Japan has been bracing for many, many decades has hit. Not only was it a huge quake in shallow waters, but it also generated a tsunami. And these waves that have hit so far have been as high as 10 meters. And what this has done, the waves have gone into the coast in cities such as Sendai and they have carried back out to sea buildings, cars, trucks, homes and other structures. There is certain to be a fairly significant death toll. We're also going to be talking about damage to facilities in the billions of dollars."

Listen to the full interview

From your years living in Japan, your experience reporting on events, natural disasters in Japan, weren't the Japanese fairly confident they could withstand a major quake?

"This is literally almost off the scale in terms of how the Japanese measure the intensity of shaking in local areas. And, of course, Japan has the most stringent building standards in the world for quake mitigation. It has also spent billions of dollars over many decades building coastal defenses against tsunamis. And what we have seen in some areas is that those defenses have been overwhelmed."

What do you anticipate to be the social, economic and, even, political costs of this massive natural disaster?

"Japan really has not faced anything like this in modern times. The Japanese economy has not been in good shape. This is going to be a very big blow to any industry that relies on production. Of course, the construction industry will boom. Obviously, there's going to be a massive rebuilding effort. Right now, it's way too premature to think about that. The focus in the next days and weeks is going to be on search and rescue. From the size of the destruction from both the quake and the tsunami, there are obviously going to be thousands of people trapped and missing and the military in Japan is already getting into the act: aircraft are flying north to survey damage, ships are leaving from the naval port, heading north. Hundreds - if not thousands - of members of the police force and the self-defense forces are being dispatched. And at this point, we still don't know how bad it is because there are still forecasts for additional tsunamis to hit and we expect there will be more devastating aftershocks."

Steve Herman is tweeting on the Japan Earthquake at @W7VOA


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid