2011 Tōhoku Tsunami
Effects of the tsunami
Type Tsunami
Date 11 March 2011
Runups 6051
Maximum Wave Height 40 m
Casualties 18537 dead
6146 missing

The tsunami crashes through the Sendai plain of Northern Japan.

The Tsunami was brought on by the upthrust of 6 to 8 metres of the Earthquake. Despite around 43% of Japans coast being protected by seawalls, many of the seawalls, when confronted with the tsunami, were overwhelmed.[1] Thousands of lives were lost and the the impact was felt by all countries on the Pacific Ocean. Chile's Pacific coast, the furthest from Japan's, experienced 2 metre waves, whilst the waves were approximately 40 metres at its highest point in Japan. 

The impact of the tsunami was mostly focused on the Tōhoku region of northeastern Honshu, where vast areas of land were inundated and the port and airport of Sendai city were forced to shut down operations. Apart from damaging roads, buildings and other basic infrastructure, the tsunami damaged four reactors at the Fukushima I power plant, triggering a nuclear disaster comparative to the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.


The tsunami was a direct result of the earthquake that occurred in the same area. The submarine earthquake struck off the coast of Oshika peninsula and, though it caused severe damage across the Tōhoku region, it caused even more damage through its triggering of the tsunami.

The earthquake resulted in a vertical displacement of seawater, which then spread throughout the Pacific ocean, affecting areas as far as Chile.[2][3] The tsunami ravaged the Fukushima Prefecture, resulting in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown at the seaside Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Even though the the complex had a sea wall protecting it, the damage eventually caused the leakage of more than 300 metric tonnes of contaminated water.[4]



The main article for this section is Impact

More than 18,000 people were killed in the tsunami, with most dying by drowning.[5]

The first waves of the tsunami hit Japan less than 1 hour after the earthquake. The tsunami waves reached run-up heights (how far the wave surges inland above sea level) of up to 128 feet (39 meters) at Miyako city and traveled inland as far as 6 miles (10 km) at Sendai. The tsunami flooded an estimated area of approximately 217 square miles (561 square kilometers) in Japan.[5]

The waves overtopped and destroyed protective tsunami seawalls at several locations. The massive surge destroyed three-story buildings where people had gathered for safety. Near Oarai, the tsunami generated a huge whirlpool offshore, captured on video, causing even more damage.[5]


20110311Houshu ogg

20110311Houshu ogg

Propagation of the 2011 tsunami

Fukushima Tsunami

Fukushima Tsunami

The tsunami in Miyako Harbour, Iwate.


  1. . Japan’s Seawalls Fail in Wake of Tsunami ( WhisprWave. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  2. 2013-03-10. How Japan's 2011 Earthquake Happened (Infographic) ( Livescience. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  3. James Attwood 2011-03-12. Chile Lifts Tsunami Alerts After Japan Quake Spawns Waves ( Bloomberg. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  4. Yoko Kubota . Wrecked Fukushima storage tank leaking highly radioactive water ( Reuters. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 . Japan Earthquake & Tsunami of 2011: Facts and Information ( Livescience. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
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