10 Years Since the Great East Japan Earthquake (35 photos)

Two photos. The left side shows ocean water overflowing a seawall, carrying boats and cars with it. The right photo shows the same harbor, but years later, with quiet water.

Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan’s northeastern shore—the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to have hit Japan—generating enormous tsunami waves that spread across miles of shoreline, climbing as high as 130 feet (40 meters). The powerful inundation of seawater tore apart coastal towns and villages, carrying ships inland as thousands of homes were flattened, then washed tons of debris and vehicles back out to sea. Damage to the reactors at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant then caused a third disaster, contaminating a wide area that still forces thousands from their homes. The earthquake and subsequent disasters cost tens of billions of dollars, and nearly 16,000 lives. Memorials planned for this year will be held, but most have been scaled back due to the ongoing pandemic.

This combination of pictures shows a handout photo (left) taken by a Miyako City official on March 11, 2011 of the tsunami breaching an embankment and flowing into the city of Miyako, and the same area (right) nearly 10 years later, on January 28, 2021.

Jiji Press, Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty)

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