Shocking video from the Japan earthquake

We've collected some of the most alarming footage of the ongoing disaster

By Adam Clark Estes
Published March 11, 2011 7:25AM (EST)
Flames rise from an oil refinery after a powerful earthquake in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture (state), Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. The largest earthquake in Japan's recorded history slammed the eastern coast Friday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA (AP)
Flames rise from an oil refinery after a powerful earthquake in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture (state), Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. The largest earthquake in Japan's recorded history slammed the eastern coast Friday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA (AP)

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan causing a tsunami nearly 25 feet high to slam into the island nation. A series of aftershocks numbering in the dozens and most of them at 6.0 magnitude or higher rattled the nation in the hours following the initial quake. Damage in certain areas can only be described as catastrophic. We'll be adding photos and videos of the earthquake and aftermath as the day continues.

Watch live coverage on Japan's English-language news channel NHK here:

Live video by Ustream

UPDATE -- Aftermath footage (5:43 P.M. EST, 03/14/2011)
Rescuers and journalists alike a patrolling the areas affected by the tsunami. With just one or two buildings remaining in Minamisanriku, the sheer scale of destruction is apparent:

Channel 4 News took a closer look at the city of Kesennuma, the site depicted in a much-viewed video showing the ground level perspective as the tsunami swept through the city streets.

UPDATE -- Tsunami from ground level (4:30 P.M. EST, 03/14/2011)
One of the more terrifying videos we've seen today, this amateur footage shows the tsunami hit shore at full height:

UPDATE -- New footage from Sendai airport (2:45 P.M. EST, 03/14/2011)
More amateur video shot from the interior of the Sendai airport during the tsunami shows relative calm inside of the building while the tsunami destroyed the exterior:

Another amateur videographer caught the earth tearing open in the hours after the initial quake and aftershocks:

UPDATE  -- Videos show extent of devastation (1:25 P.M. EST, 03/14/2011)
Residents emerged from their shelters over the weekend to being surveying the damage. According to one woman, local governments are either unable or unwilling to help so she has begun rebuilding herself:

This collection of shots shows unidentified blocks of destruction as well as an aerial view of what appears to be the Sendai airport. Note the fighter jets picked up by powerful tsunami waters and carried into other buildings:

UPDATE --  Views of the tsunami from above (12:38 P.M. EST, 03/14/2011)
This dramatic video shot from high ground over a neighborhood in the Miyagi Prefecture shows houses swept away with some residents narrowly escaping:

Seawalls overflow in the town of Miyako as the tsunami turns a small stream into a raging black wall of water:

Footage from the Tokyo Broadcasting System shows an alarming series of moments when the tsunami takes over what appears to be a parking lot. The cars looks like rubber ducks when carried away by the powerful force of the water:

UPDATE -- Large scale destruction caught on tape (11:05 A.M. EST, 03/14/2011)
More and more dramatic footage of the tsunami impact appeared online over the weekend. Some of the most disturbing shows water turn from a trickle down the streets to a torrent of destruction that carries away cars and houses. This video reportedly shows a neighborhood in Kesennuma destroyed in a matter of minutes:

This aerial video shows the tsunami speeding through the water before slamming into land and overtaking farm:

UPDATE -- An insider's look at the quake (5:47 P.M. EST)
This video of an open supermarket during the earthquake provides a unique perspective on the chaos of the quake:

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released this video earlier today showing the path of the tsunami. Ecuador, Chile and other South American countries still await impact:

For the future, here's a tsunami survival guide.

UPDATE -- Tsunami heads south as radiation fears mount (4:30 P.M. EST)
Daylight is breaking in Japan exposing the damage unleashed by the tsunami and earthquake.

The next stops for tsunamis include Easter Island and other locations in Chile, while aftershocks continue to shake Japan. The severity of the more severe aftershocks -- at least two aftershocks have been recorded at a 6.6 and 7.1 magnitude -- are individually comparable with other catastrophic earthquakes in recent past. (The Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake was only a 6.3 on the Richter scale.)

Here are a few more interesting updates, including broader coverage of the science of earthquakes and the United States' preparedness.

  • Radioactive Steam Released From Stricken Japanese Nuke Plant (TIME)
  • Radiation 1,000 times higher than normal detected at nuke plant (Kyodo News)
  • Is D.C. prepared for a tsunami? (National Journal)

UPDATE -- Powerful aftershocks continue (2:49 P.M. EST)
A magnitude 6.6 earthquake has struck central Japan, and while seemingly an aftershock, any quakes above 6.6 on the Richter scale is considered an earthquake. Building swayed in Tokyo, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

Meanwhile, a cruiseship and bullet train have gone missing accounting for potentially 400 missing persons. The BBC reports that the 8.9 magnitude earthquake is reportedly the strongest in that area in hundreds of years:

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake which struck Japan on Friday was the strongest in the area in nearly 1,200 years, David Applegate, a senior science adviser at the US Geological Survey, tells the Associated Press. He says the quake ruptured a patch of the earth's crust 240km (150 miles) long and 80km (50 miles) across.

A tsunami overtakes the Kuwagasaki neighborhood in Miyako, about 125 miles northeast of Sendai and knocks houses off of their foundations:

Despite such overwhelming destruction, the New York Times reports that thanks to strict building codes and the best technology "no country may be better prepared to withstand earthquakes than Japan." The video below shows the swaying buildings equipped with sophisticated systems to absorb the impact of seismic shifts:

UPDATE 12:58 P.M. EST:
President Obama announced the U.S. response to the earthquake in Japan just a few minutes ago:

In addition pledging assitance to the Japan -- including sending an additional aircraft carrier to Japan and also helping to supply the coolant to the damaged nuclear power plant -- President Obama assured the press that the government had taken all necessary steps to respond to the tsunami on the West Coast:

Here in the United States, there hasn't been any major damage so far. But we are taking this very seriously and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. Let me just stress: if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.

Today's events remind us how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we are going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild after this tragedy.

UPDATE 12:19 P.M. EST:
More details are being released by international news organizations. Here are the latest headlines and links to full coverage:

  • Death toll from powerful Japan quake likely to top 1,000 (Kyodo News)
  • Emergency declared at Japanese Nuclear plant (New York Times)
  • Witnesses describe the horror, damage from quake and tsunami (CNN)
  • Thousands roam Tokyo's streets (AP)

Travel in and around Japan is frozen. According to MSBC's live coverage, drivers have been stuck in gridlock on the high ways in Tokyo for six hours or more. US-Airways flights going into and out of the country have been cancelled.

UPDATE 11:23 A.M. EST:
The West Coast is bracing for the tsunami that's been travelling across the world from Japan at the speed of an airplane. The first waves hit the Oregon Coast just a few minutes ago. According to the Associated Press, the impact so far is minimal:

HONOLULU — The first waves from a tsunami caused by a Japanese earthquake have reached the U.S. mainland along the Oregon coast.

The National Weather Service says some of the biggest waves of between 6 and 7 feet were expected to hit near Crescent City, Calif.

In Alaska, the tsunami caused a wave just over 5 feet at Shemya in the Aleutian Islands 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Surfers in Southern California are hoping to catch a wild ride when the waves hit.

UPDATE 10:30 A.M. EST:
According to the United State Geological Survey, the earthquake in Japan could be the fifth largest in recorded history, comparable to last year's disaster in Chile but not as strong as the 1952 quake in Kamchatka off the eastern coast of Russia:

1. Chile -- 9.5 (May 22, 1960)
2. Prince William Sound, Alaska -- 9.2 (March 28, 1968)
3. Off the west coast of Northern Sumatra -- 9.1 magnitude (December 26, 2004)
4. Kamchatka -- 9.0 (November 4, 1952)
5. Offshore Maule, Chile -- 8.8 (February 27, 2010)

UPDATE 10:14 A.M. EST:
Google's Person Finder is now live, in case you have loved ones in Japan -- access it below.

One of the more alarming videos, shows a torrent of debris and fire overtaking a field. You can see entire houses and cars being carried by the powerful mass of water:

Rescue efforts are underway across Japan as it nears midnight. As tsunami waters have receded, fires are a significant concern. Already, Japan has seen major explosions near oil refineries:

Another video of oil refinery explosions:

From earlier, the tsunami sweeps over an airport in Sendai:

A tsunami is wrapping around the Hawaiin Islands at the moment. The waves so far have been larger than normal, though not destructive. Here's a live video feed from CBS News from Honolulu:

Video chat rooms at Ustream


Authorities report 200 to 300 bodies litter the shores of Sendai, Japan after the worst of the tsunami has receded. The death toll is expected to rise throughout the day as rescue workers sift through the damage.

Meanwhile, workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant are on alert after a precautionary evactuation near the plant. With electricity disruptions, workers worried that they would not be able to keep the cooling system in operation.


On-the-ground video of the earthquake -- likely an aftershock -- in Japan:

This video from Sendai shows men at work when the earthquake hits as well as a shocking view of cars floating down a river after the tsunamis:

More cars swept away by a tsunami in Japan:

Adam Clark Estes

Adam Clark Estes blogs the news for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @adamclarkestes

MORE FROM Adam Clark Estes

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Earthquakes Japan Japan Earthquake Natural Disasters