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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid