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More Maps and Images of Japan’s Great Quake

| March 13, 2011
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The death toll from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami are now expected to top 10,000. Having seen a relative handful of the flood of images that captured the disaster, that number is not surprising; it might even seem to be an underestimate, given the fact that Sendai, a city of 1 million, was 80 miles from the epicenter and was hit by a 30-foot wave just minutes later (downtown San Francisco is 60 miles in a straight line from the epicenter of 1989′s Loma Prieta earthquake; if a 9.0 quake had hit—not in the cards, seismologists say—we wonder whether we’d be talking about San Francisco and San Jose in the past tense).

The best treatment we’ve seen of the extent of the area shaken, and the severity of the damage therein, comes from The New York Times: Map of the Damage from the Japanese Earthquake. The straight-line distance from the northernmost point on the map where severe damage was recorded, Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture (population 235,000), is a good 360 miles from Tokyo. Much of the coast between those points was devastated and the interior areas were severely shaken. If you’re thinking in California terms, that’s the as-the-crow-flies distance from San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles—a long, long swath of destruction.

The Los Angeles Times has produced a timeline map of the shocks that preceded and followed the quake: Shaking before and after Japan’s great quake.

The Washington Post has posted a useful overview map of the affected areas: Earthquake in Japan: A wave of destruction.

The San Jose Mercury News has a good piece and graphic on what oceanographers do and do not know about the timing and behavior of tsunamis: Scientists accurately predict path of tsunamis, but still uncertain about impacts.

Yesterday, we called out coverage of the quake from the Boston Globe’s Big Picture photo blog. A commenter pointed us to another excellent photo resource, The Atlantic’s In Focus picture page. Check that out, too.

Speaking of imagery, a Saturday offering from Google and satellite/aerial photo service GeoEye showcases the remarkable—no: really incredible—capacity current technology gives us to see the world from new physical and temporal perspectives. The company’s got together to produce before and after views of coastal areas swept by Friday’s killer waves. The New York Times has the best iteration of the show: Satellite Photos—Japan Before and After Tsunami.

And finally, here’s a video we can’t embed (it’s a Quicktime movie) that conveys a very immediate idea of how quickly the water arrived in coastal towns and how quickly it erased communities from the landscape. The location is the town of Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, a town of 75,000. The Daily Yomiuri quotes a resident as saying of the aftermath, “This is a hellish sight I can hardly believe.”

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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