A 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake has struck just off the coast of northeastern Japan. At a depth of just 24km and only 60km offshore, it released 8,000 times more energy than the second Christchurch earthquake. The Kurihara seismic station recorded a 7 on the destructiveness scale, the maximum reading in Chch 2 was an 8 out of 12 on our scale.
Swathes of 70K city of Kesennuma ablaze. Severe damage in Tokyo, over 250km away, and the Tsunami has swept down the coast. Felt as far away as Beijing, 2500km distant.
Death toll unknown. $100 billion to $1 trillion damage. 20+ aftershocks over 5.5 are reported so far. Tsunami warnings across the Pacific, including NZ. We should be OK but stay away from beaches.
A summary map of major damage from the BBC.
Nuclear reactors automatically shut down via the insertion of control rods following the quake but in two reactors there is concern that the pumping systems have failed and the nuclear decay is still heating the coolant water. This is how a meltdown begins, with the inability to dissipate the energy safely. It does seem the situation is under control with an emergency release of vapor from the cooling system of the worst-affected reactor.