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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs