GCSE Geography AQA A Restless Earth: The Tohoku Tsunami

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  • The Tohoku Tsunami Japan
    • About
      • On 11th March 2011, a very powerful earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred about 100km east of Sendai in Honshu.
      • In 30 minutes a wall of water up to 40m high hit the coast of North West Japan.
      • This was followed in places by up to 9 additional waves reaching 10m high.
      • 3000km of coastline was affected by the waves as it tore through sea defences.
    • Causes
      • The earthquake that triggered the tsunami occurred at the destructive subduction plate boundary between the North American and Pacific plate.
      • Scientists believe that a segment of rock about 200km wide slipped resulting in an upwards lift of the Earth's crust by 5-10 metres.
        • It is believed to be this uplift that triggered the tsunami.
          • The worlds stock markets fell over concerns about japan's rising debts.
    • Impacts
      • Over 20,000 people were killed as the waves swept 10km onshore.
      • The high death toll was caused by the power of the surge which battered sea defences and flood areas deemed safe from tsunamis.
      • 500 square km of coastal plains were flooded, destroying farmlands, settlements and communications.
      • The port of Sendai was totally destroyed.
      • Ruptured gas pipes led to fires raging for several days.
      • At the Fukushima nuclear plant, explosions occurred as seawater over topped the flood defences leading to concerns regarding nuclear contamination and potential meltdown due to failure of cooling systems.
      • Electricity was cut off in almost six million homes and over one million homes were left without water.
      • Relief efforts were hampered due to heavy snow, blocked roads, debris, landslides and over 1000 aftershocks.
    • Responses
      • Over 100,000 Japanese soldiers were deployed in search and rescue, they distributed blankets, water and food to those affected.
      • Specialist search and rescue teams were flown in from overseas.
      • An exclusion zone was set up around the Fukushima nuclear zone and people were evacuated from the area.
      • In the long term, a huge re-building and reconstruction program is planned involving houses, infrastructure and communication systems.
      • Port facilities will be re-built and the tsunami defence system will be reconsidered.
        • The tsunami defences may be extended in height beyond the standard 12m.


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