Japan is bracing for a tsunami after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off Honshu at 3:59 p.m. EST Tuesday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
The tsunami wave could rise from 3-10 feet; one wave has already been seen roughly 14 miles off the coast of Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, CNN affiliate NHK reported, adding, “A two-foot tsunami has arrived at Onahama Port in Fukushima, followed by a 3 foot tsunami at Soma, a coastal city in the Fukushima region hit badly in the 2011 disaster.” The Japanese public broadcaster intoned, "Please do not think that you are safe. Please evacuate to high grounds. Please think about the worst-case scenario and evacuate right away."
The U.S. Geological Survey measured Tuesday’s quake at 6.9, and described it as having moved along a lateral slip, thus less prone to catalyze a large tsunami than a quake that moves vertically.
A 2011 9.0 quake hit close to where Tuesday’s quake struck; the 2011 quake was so powerful it damaged nuclear reactors and killed more than 18,000 people. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station melted down in three of its six reactors. The quake moved Japan's coast 8 feet, shifted the Earth's axis, and caused a tsunami with 30-foot waves. It was the fourth-largest earthquake on record since 1900 and the largest ever to hit Japan.
The three earthquakes stronger than Japan’s 2011 quake were:
- May 22, 1960: a 9.5 earthquake hit Chile: roughly 1,655 people were killed, 3,000 injured, 2,000,000 homeless, and $550 million damage in southern Chile; the resultant tsunami caused 61 deaths, $75 million damage in Hawaii; 138 deaths and $50 million damage in Japan; 32 dead and missing in the Philippines; and $500,000 damage to the west coast of the United States. The rupture zone was estimated to be roughly 620 miles long, from Lebu to Puerto Aisen.
- March 27, 1964: a 9.2 earthquake hit roughly 70 miles southeast of Anchorage, Alaska. The earthquake and ensuing tsunami took 131 lives, (122 from the ensuing tsunami, 9 from the earthquake) and caused roughly $2.3 billion in property loss.
- December 26, 2004: Off the west coast of the island of Sumatra: this was the deadliest quake in history; the ensuing tsunami left 227,898 people dead or missing. The total estimated material losses in the Indian Ocean region were $10 billion and insured losses were $2 billion. An International Tsunami Survey Team (ITST) showed wave heights of 65 to 100 feet at the island's northwest end and 50 to 100 feet along a 60-mile stretch of the northwest coast.