The Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami


Image by Danny Choo

Excerpt From Walking Back From Key West . . .

Tim fumed as he stood in line for the waffle iron.  The day was barely started and it was already out of control.  Mark and Dale had already plotted out the whole day; unthinkable!  How had he missed this?  When did all of this happen?

“. . . then I rolled down the pier and the twat knocked my sunglasses off,” a familiar voice announced.

“Did you get them back?” Roger asked.

Tim turned to see the group of students from the previous night.   The tall blond one was wearing dark glasses, appeared to be hung over and was clearly pleased with himself.

“No.  They landed in the water,” Spence laughed.

Tim saw the girls out of the corner of his eye and found he still didn’t know their names.

Kate hung on Darla. Like Spence, Kate was wrecked and resenting everything.

“Well, I turned to him and said…”Spence continued.

“Shhhh!” Jane hissed and turned up the sound on the large television that dominated the hotel’s breakfast room.

Before anyone could say anything rude the announcer informed the audience, “At 2:49 P.M., Tokyo time,  an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck two-hundred-and-thirty-one miles north of Tokyo.  It is believed that the epicenter of the quake was off the coast of Honshu.   A Tsunami of roughly thirty feet struck the coastal communities in the region.”

“I believe we’re playing that footage now,” the news anchor said as images of wave crashing through a line of cars played, “can you tell us what we’re looking at?”

“Well, Brad, the Tsunami is sweeping several miles inland carrying off cars, demolishing buildings and ….”

“Yes, but James, where is this? We can see the cars and the wall of water, but what is the town?”

“Um, Brad, I believe the footage you have up right now is from the town of Kesennuma in the Northeastern part of the country…”

“Do we know how many people live in that town?” the anchor asked.

“I have just been corrected.   Kesennuma is a city and had a population of approximately 74,000,” James said as the footage continued to play.

“Do we have any casualty reports?” Brad asked.

“Kyodo news service is still gathering initial information from the coastal authorities.  At present we have only thirty three confirmed deaths.   But it’s too early to begin to even estimate the total destruction and loss of life as access to the coastal regions has been limited due to water, earthquake damage and debris carried in land by the tsunami.   Some survivors who have been interviewed report seeing people swept out to sea.”

“Really?  And what is this footage we’re now seeing?”

“This is the city of Minamisōma, population is approximately 72,000.  This footage is from a helicopter in the area.  As you can see, there isn’t a structure left standing in the area where the Tsunami rushed across the city.”

“How much time did the residents have?”

“From when the Tsunami hit?”

“Were there warnings?”

“The residents were given a warning of eight to ten minutes.   But you have to remember that this was during the late afternoon Tokyo time.   So residents were likely at their place of work or school.”

There was a snapping sound as the channel was changed.

“Marcia, you will remember that in 2004 a Tsunami struck Thailand.  The Indian Ocean Earthquake measured was a 9.1 to 9.3 magnitude earthquake and generated waves of thirty or more feet killing nearly five thousand people and injuring well over eight thousand others.   People were carried out to sea on boards, on trees and in homes that were washed away.  Bodies were still being found months later.  Over four thousand people were never found.”

“Charlie, we’re seeing video from the Kyodo news service of the Tsunami striking a city in the northern part of Japan.   Do we have any idea how many people are in the city?”

“Marci, I’m sorry. . .I’m not hearing you.  We appear to be having a problem with the relay.  But I will continue and hope that you are able to hear me.  The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake gives us an idea of just how bad this maybe and some of the devastation we can expect.  Initial reports are that the Japanese earthquake was 8.9 to 9.1 magnitude.”

“Charlie, the producer is indicating we’ve gotten the relay fixed.   So do we have any idea what areas are being impacted in Japan and the size of the population at risk?”

“When the earth quake hit, people were at work, at school and in the stores.  The footage we’re seeing is from security cameras, news services and cellphones.   As you can see, large shards of glass are falling several stories to the street  below, and we are now seeing video from a brokerage office as computers, cabinets and fixtures are tumbling over on employees.”

“Charlie, can you hear me?”

Another pop and the screen went to a picture of a wave striking Japan.

“Clair, what are the residents of Santa Monica doing to prepare?”

“In the predawn hours here in Santa Monica, California, residents of this coastal community are preparing for the Tsunami.  Boats are being taken out of area marinas and some ships are heading out to sea.”

“Clair, is that safe, heading out to sea?”

“Don, the Coast Guard has issued an alert and is advising all boats presently at anchor or docked in coastal communities from Seattle, Washington, south to San Diego to take appropriate precautions for a massive tidal wave.   While not expected to be near the over thirty foot waves that battered the coastal communities of Japan, near the epicenter of the earthquake, the waves are still expected to be extreme and fast moving.   The tidal wave is moving at roughly five hundred miles an hour across the ocean from Japan.   That’s about as fast as a commercial airline travels.”

“Do we know where the worst of it is likely to strike?”

“While scientists have some preliminary models of the expected track the wave will take, they still are not pinpointing precisely where the wave will make its major landfall in the United States.”

“Have they given any indication as to when they will have better information?”

“After the wave moves through the Hawaiian Islands chain, scientists expect to have a better idea of the size, intensity and location of the waves landfall in the Americas.”

“Do the residents appear to be following the Coast Guard’s recommendations?”

“While most residents appear to be taking this situation seriously,  there are some who are planning to surf the Tsunami.”


“Yes, several people I’ve spoken with say that they’re going to surf the Tsunami and are out with boards and surf suits waiting for the big one.”

A click and fuzz was followed by a talking head reading from her teleprompter.

“The Japanese Nuclear regulatory agency has confirmed that the waves did reach a nuclear power facility in the coastal community of Sendai.   We have been assured that normal precautions have been taken and that the power plant remains secured.   The facility is closing down its operations near the epicenter of the earthquake strictly as a precaution.”

“The president of the United States has been in communications with the Japanese government and its Prime Minister, and he has pledged support for the island nation.  He has directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to place all available equipment at the disposal of the Japanese government to assist in humanitarian aid efforts.  Two Navy ships are being outfitted with equipment needed to assist in clearing the debris from damaged coastal communities.  Their deployment will be delayed as the arrival of the Tsunami on United States West coast is expected later today.   Two ships that are on deployment to the Persian Gulf are being redirected to Japan and are expected to arrive there in the next eighteen hours.”

A final pop and the screen glowed with the images of the tidal waves from earlier.

“Several scientists who have tracked the current of the Pacific predict that human remains and the debris from the tsunami’s strike in Japan could begin to make landfall in the U.S. over the next few months and continue to be deposited on our shores for the next year or longer.”

“That is a very grizzly prospect,” a woman’s voice cut in.

“Yes, very grizzly,” the reporter agreed.

“What about sea conditions and predators?”

“The tracking that scientists are talking about is based on early models.   But as the one scientist noted earlier, the drift fields they are describing are based on tracking drifts of shoes and other products manufactured in Japan and mainland China that have been lost at sea in that region and tracked to the United States on Pacific current over a period of years.   While it’s unlikely that an entire body will wash up on beaches in the U.S., it is, in the scientists’ opinion, ‘highly likely’ that a significant deposit of human remains will make it to the West Coast of North America.   And with those remains, other debris is to be expected.”

“Thank you Tharin, we will be joining you again later in our broadcast.  While the world awaits more information as to the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese impacted by these tragic events,  other tragedies are unfolding hear at home. Marcus Columbia joins us from midtown Manhattan.”

“Thank you Sarah.  I am in midtown Manahattan, near the corporate offices of Dougainee Industries.  As you can see, fire fighters are trying to control a blaze that has consumed the lobby of Dougainnee Industries.  In what was initially thought to be an Al Qaeda terrorist attack, a lone suicide bomber appears to have driven into the Dougainnee offices at three A.M. this morning in an American made car and detonated an explosive device.   While Homeland Security is assisting in this investigation, early consensus appears to be that this was not an Al Qaeda attack, but instead an act of domestic terrorism.”

“An American sleeper cell?”

“While officials will not comment, off the record, individuals close to the investigation are saying that the evidence points to a domestic terrorist group without any Al Qaeda connections.   The driver, who was instantly killed, has not been identified.   Officials indicate that they are awaiting confirmation of the drivers identity and will not release any name until officials can contact the relatives and complete their preliminary investigation.  They do identify security guard Antony Rizzo as one of the three injured people who had to be taken to an area hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the explosion and fire.   Mr. Rizzo is reported to be in critical condition.  Two other Douganiee employees are reported to have been treated for minor injuries and released.”

“Marcus, thank you for your report.  We’ll check back in with you later this morning,” the news anchor said.

“Thank you Sarah,” Marcus answered.

“We now have word that one of four nuclear facilities near the epicenter of the earthquake and directly hit by the Tsunami, may have been severely compromised by these events, and may be leaking radioactive gas and water. An expert on nuclear facility safety is joining us in our Philadelphia studios to help us understand these recent developments.”

Someone muted the television.   A caption box appeared repeating the stories of the earthquake and Tsunami that had struck Japan.

Tim turned away from the television.   A waffle station was being vacated and he darted forward to claim it.   Spence let out a low “damn” in response to the news from Japan and slunk off to grab a cup of coffee.  Kate and Darla, who were shocked by the news, were also deeply affected by their own hangovers and slipped off to take a corner table away from the television and the morning sunlight.

“Did you see the news?” read one of several text messages that Trisha had not read or responded to earlier.

Erin stared wide eyed at the television in horror.  Was this what happened every day?  There was a cracking noise.  Was this the sort of news that she somehow ignored?   Was everyone around her used to this, this chaos, this devastation?  She heard the cracking noise again and distantly realized she was crushing a plastic fork in her right hand.    She was squeezing it so hard that it was breaking into pieces in her palm.   She then saw the trickle of blood that was forming a small pool on the table.


Text Copyright Jose Serrano Pasqual 2014 & Hell Bent Press


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