• You are here:

Japan Tsunami Event 11 March 2011

Observed water heights and calculated tsunami travel times, 11 March 2011

Observed water heights and calculated tsunami travel times, 11 March 2011


The 11 March 2011 M9.0 earthquake generated a devastating local tsunami that struck the Pacific coast of Honshu within about 20 minutes.   The Japan National Police Agency reports 13,895 persons killed and 13,864 persons missing from the earthquake and tsunami. 141,343 residents are still staying at evacuation shelters.  The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami Joint Survey Group (http://www.coastal.jp/tsunami2011/) reports highest tsunami runup heights at Sendai in the 15-20 m range.  The 11 March 2011 Japanese tsunami was the first to cause deaths since the 1993 Sea of Japan magnitude 7.7 earthquake caused 23 deaths and generated a tsunami that caused an additional 208, and the most fatal tsunami globally since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami generated off Sumatra, Indonesia that killed nearly 230,000 across the Indian Ocean.

The Japan Meteorological Agency’s national tsunami warning center issued a tsunami warning 3 minutes after the earthquake triggering the alerting process that immediately broadcasted by mass media and locally activated sirens and other mitigation countermeasures such as flood gate closures.   Live video of the advancing tsunami waves and their impact on structures at the coast was aired by Japan NHK television and seen at the same time globally.  Despite Japan’s sustained and globally-recognized excellence in tsunami preparedness, many casualties resulted and again reminded us of the swiftness and destructive power of tsunamis.  Waves overtopped  tsunami walls and destroyed many structures, especially wooden homes.  Nonetheless, some tall reinforced concrete buildings and evacuation platforms did survive and allowed citizens to shelter in place by vertically evacuating.  Tsunami waves also caused huge infrastructure damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in the meltdown of core reactors and local emission of dangerous radiation.  Like the previous tsunamis, drowning was the main cause of death, with casualties greatest in the elderly.

The tsunami also propagated across the entire Pacific Ocean, with runups up to 5 m and $8 million in damage to harbors and homes in Hawaii 7 hours later, up to 3 m and $20 million in damage in California 12 hours later, and up to 3 m heights and more than $4 million in damage 22 hours later in Chile.  Outside of Japan, 1 person died in California, USA, and 1 person died in Papua, Indonesia.



find us on facebook

Featured Resources

banner materiales educativos

Regional Disaster Information Center (Latin America & the Caribbean)

A database of Spanish language materials focused on tsunami preparedness.
dsc00149 thumbnail

Post-Tsunami Survey:
El Salvador Summary Video

Learn the basics of a post-tsunami survey.

TsunamiTeacher USA
Tsunami Basics

Also on YouTube youtube_logo
(w/closed captioning)

Learn the basics of tsunamis. Available in English and Samoan.

Tsunamis on the Move

Tsunami Awareness Poster

Awareness poster available in English, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Singalese.


Global Hazard Maps

Posters of Tsunami Sources, Significant Earthquakes and Significant Volcanic Eruptions. Also Tsunami Sources Icosohedron Globe.

great waves en 12 small thumbnail

Tsunami, The Great Waves

Available in English, Spanish, French and Chinese.


tsunami glossary 2013 thumbnail

Tsunami Glossary

Available in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and Bahasa. 



Where the First Wave Arrives in Minutes

Available in English, Bahasa, Spanish and French.


DVD copies for PC and Macintosh computers are available free of charge from the ITIC, Hawaii (itic.tsunami@noaa.gov).

Hosted by:
UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE Oostende, Belgium
© 2015 International Tsunami Information Center | A UNESCO/IOC-NOAA Partnership
1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA | Tel: +1 808 725 6050 | Fax: +1 808 725 6055