Tsunami warnings are being triggered around the world. Image: Flickr / michaeldorausch / CC-BY-SA

The largest earthquake in modern Japanese history hit on Friday morning. The resulting 23-foot tsunami has killed hundreds and caused a nuclear emergency. The tsunami wave is also hitting the United States West Coast, causing evacuations and damage.

8.9 earthquake in Japan

Early Friday morning, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake hit the ocean floor around Japan. Moments later, the 23-foot tsunami from the earthquake began radiating out from the epicenter. The giant wave hit Japan with water that threw boats, cars and debris miles inland. Police have reported hundreds of dead already, and more are likely to be found dead as the waters recede. A few 4.6 magnitude earthquakes also shook areas around Hawaii, kicking off smaller tsunami waves.

Nuclear emergency in Japan

The tsunami that flooded coastal areas of Japan also hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant, shutting down cooling functions. All but necessary staff has been evacuated out of the power plant and residents of nearby areas have also been evacuated. Workers are already working on restoring cooling functions to the tower. Even if cooling cannot be restored, radiation leaks are not likely. The evacuation is mostly a cautionary measure.

Tsunami waves hitting United States

In the hours after Japan was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, waves started hitting the U.S. West Coast. Hawaii and Oregon were being hit by waves around 7:30 a.m. PST. The waves are expected to be the largest in California, where waves will be as tall as 6 or 7 feet. Officials are encouraging evacuations as soon as possible in low-lying areas of California, Oregon and Washington. Officials are also sounding warnings in Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Central America and South America.

Helping with the re-building

Japan, and many other Pacific Rim nations, will have a long and difficult re-building effort in front of them. While the first impulse is to send items to help, money is often the best way to donate for re-building. Items require warehousing, transportation, and management, while money can be directed to the places that need them most. Make sure that you donate to a well-recognized charities that you can independently verify will get the money to Japan. Try starting with Save The Children, Direct Relief International and Red Cross International.

Sources

LA Times http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fgw-japan-quake-death-toll-20110312,0,5898201.story
CNN http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/11/japan.quake/index.html

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