A devastating tsunami ripped through Japan on Friday morning. The tsunami was triggered due to a massive earthquake off JapanÃ¢Â€Â™s eastern coast. The quake, measured as 8.9 on the Richter scale, was the strongest quake in JapanÃ¢Â€Â™s long earthquake-filled history.
The scale of the disaster is still being calculated. Several towns and at least three major cities on the Japanese mainland have been devastated. Most dangerously an oil refinery and two Nuclear power plants caught fire. Although the fires in the nuclear plants were quickly bought under control, ruptured gas lines ignited among the rubble of smashed homes, leading to the night being lit up by thousands of fires that brunt uncontrollably in some areas.
Millions have been cut off from electricity and mobile networks while over 88,000 are estimated to be missing - although that figure will certainly be drastically reduced once the chaos and the panic reduces enough for a head-count to be made.
Japan rests on the 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an area infamous for its extreme tectonic activity. The last earthquake was the great 'Kanto earthquake' in 1923 which struck Tokyo and killed around 1, 00,000. Even the word tsunami is a Japanese word meaning . With such a history of seismic activity the earthquake was actually long expected by the Japanese. Over the years they have developed and implemented some of the world's best anti-earthquake technology and this has undoubtedly saved thousands of lives.
While they also have tsunami warning systems and a series of dams and leewayÃ¢Â€Â™s to tackle tsunamis, the sheer power of the tsunami overwhelmed them completely. It will probably take days before the entire grim picture can be properly understood.
Tsunami kills hundreds in Japan
Image: Waves from a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake hit residences in Natori, Miyagi prefecture (state), Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011.
Text: Vinayak Hegde