An 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan overnight, causing massive destruction and triggering a tsunami that washed away houses, buildings and farmland across a large swath of northeastern Japan. Although Japan is among the most prepared countries for earthquakes, this quake is the largest to hit the island nation in recorded history and caused significant destruction.
Nations across the Pacific basin, including the U.S. states of Hawaii, California and Oregon, were on tsunami alert as well, since the wave traveled eastward from Japan after the quake. Initial reports indicate that several hundred people have died in Japan as a result of the natural disasters, but that number is expected to rise as rescuers search for survivors.
Japanese officials are also concerned about possible damage to the country's nuclear reactors, which produce much of its power. Entire towns were evacuated from the vicinity after it was discovered that one of those reactors had sustained significant damage in the quake.
The quake in Japan comes on the heels of a damaging earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand last month.
"We ask the people of Japan to continue to be cautious and vigilant." - Japanese Prime Minister
"It was so strong that here in Tokyo, we really felt it. I've been in Japan for nine years and this is the strongest earthquake that I've felt." - AP reporter in Tokyo
1. Where is Japan?
2. What is an earthquake? What causes it?
3. What is a tsunami? What causes it?
1. Why do you think this massive quake caused fewer casualties than Haiti’s smaller quake over a year ago?
2. Why do earthquakes often cause tsunamis? How does a tsunami travel across the ocean?
3. What parts of the U.S. are susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis? Why? What natural disasters are prevalent where you live? How do you prepare for them?
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Lesson Plan: The Science of Tsunamis: