Today – 11th March 2021 – is the 10th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
The 9.1 Magnitude earthquake struck at 14:46 JST and was the most powerful earthquake recorded in Japan. Honshu, the main island, moved east by 2.4m and the earth shifted on its axis by 10-25cm. The tsunami that followed reached up to 40m in height and travelled at 700km/h.
The tsunami caused the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Over 150,000 residents within a 20km radius were evacuated. Many will be unable to ever return with estimates that it will be 40 years before radiation levels have fallen to safe levels again.
Over 120,000 buildings totally collapsed, over 280,000 partially collapsed and 700,000 buildings were damaged. 4.4 million households in northern Japan were left without electricity, 1.5 million households without water.
100,000 children were uprooted from their homes. 1,580 children in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures lost either one or both parents. 378 school students lost their lives, 158 disappeared without a trace.
15,899 people died. 2,525 people went missing and have still not been found.
Japanese TV has had a full schedule of programmes today from formal ceremonies taking place across the country through to individual tales of loss. Every life is precious but the stories of children who were literally swept away by the sea are heartbreaking and even a decade on the grieving process continues. As a parent myself, I cannot or more accurately do not want to dare to imagine the pain of mothers and fathers whose children’s lives were snatched prematurely on that fateful day. The hours of waiting before finding out if their son or daughter was safe must have been unbearable and for those who faced the unthinkable news, I am genuinely lost for words.
On this day each year, I make sure that I find the time to pause for a moment to reflect. This year, I have been thinking mostly about those poor children and hope that their physical lives, whilst short, were happy ones and that their spirits have found a peaceful place of rest.