Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Fact Sheet

 As of April 18, 2011

General Situation

On March 11, 2011 at 2:46 p.m. local time (12:46 a.m. EST), a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred near Honshu, Japan creating a devastating tsunami that threatened people, property, infrastructure and natural resources throughout the entire Pacific basin.  The earthquake was the fourth largest in the world since 1900 and the largest in Japan since modern instrumental recordings began 130 years ago.  The size of the earthquake and the initial tsunami that impacted Japan triggered the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the West Coast and Alaska Warning Center (WCATWC) to issue tsunami advisories, watches and warnings for Pacific coastal regions stretching from Russia, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the southern tip of Chile and Australia, and all the islands throughout the Pacific, including Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, and Micronesia.   The USGS continues to monitor all seismic activity related to the earthquake and is providing satellite imagery to assist Japan in its recovery efforts.  More than 1000 aftershocks including 57 strong aftershocks above 6.0 and four above 7.0 in magnitude have been recorded.

Japan, by far, received the most damage with the possibility of tens of thousands of people killed, thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, massive power outages and ruined infrastructure, including several unstable nuclear power plants.  While the tsunami was felt across the Pacific, related damage was not as severe in other areas.  The most notable impact to the U.S. occurred in Crescent City, CA where most docks were destroyed and several boats were either sunk or damaged.  No injuries were reported to DOI personnel and facilities reported only minor damage as a result of the tsunami.

The Japanese National Police Agency reports that there are now 13,843 confirmed fatalities and 14,030 persons missing as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11.  Scientists and engineers continue to work to stabilize the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  Tokyo Electric Power Company stated that it may take an additional six to nine months to get the crisis under control.  In the meantime cooling of the fuel rods and the accumulation of radioactive water are major concerns.  The U.S. Department of State said it will issue Potassium Iodide tablets to U.S. citizens residing in Japan so long as they possess a valid U.S. passport and distribution of the tablets to government personnel began on March 21.

DOI Activities

  • USGS

The USGS has continuously tracked all seismic activity related to the earthquake and tracked the progress and amplitude of the tsunamis.

The USGS is working with the Department of Energy's Nuclear Incident Team to develop geospatial products to assess the relationships between airborne radionuclides and ground measurements and levels of radionuclides found in milk and vegetables.

The USGS is in the process of culling photos and videos of the tsunami taken by their scientists near Santa Cruz, CA and is assessing the tsunami and earthquake damage from satellite imagery.  The USGS EROS Data Center is coordinating imagery collection and archiving through its Hazards Data Distribution System to support needs identified by Japan; search and rescue teams from the US, Germany, and France; and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The USGS is holding regular calls to coordinate post-earthquake investigations by the four National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program agencies and their government and academic partners.  USGS scientists are providing dozens of media interviews, providing briefings to Congress, and participating in White House coordination meetings.


Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Central District Manager contacted oil and gas facility operators in Pacific Outer Continental Shelf Region warning them of the threat.  No reports of damage were received by the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Region, BOEMRE, in Camarillo, California.

  • BLM

Bureau of Land Management in southern Oregon and the Arcata Field Office in Northern California closed the Field Office due to the tsunami warnings.  BLM staff worked to supplement local law enforcement and emergency responders with mutual aid support.

  • BIA

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Pacific Region personnel maintained consistent contact with potentially at-risk tribes within the region to prepare for potential impacts.  There were reported no impacts to services or infrastructure.

  • NPS

National Park Service (NPS) law enforcement officers and staff from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Redwood Park assisted local emergency responders with evacuation and security issues, particularly for beaches and campgrounds.  One fatality was reported within Redwood Park where a person ignored warnings to stay off the beach and was swept out to sea while taking photographs of the incoming wave front.  Pu`uhonua o Honaunau and Kaloko Honkohau Parks in HI reported moderate damage from the tsunami.  Other NPS facilities throughout the Pacific, including American Samoa, Saipan, Guam and Hawaii reported no damage following moderate wave surges at their location.

  • FWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) personnel working on Laysan, Tern, and Midway Islands initiated emergency tsunami plans.  There were no reports of injuries to personnel on the islands.  There were no reports of damage except for some damage to the FWS and National Marine Fisheries Service camps at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.  Minimum of 1000 adult/subadult and tens of thousands of Laysan Albatross chicks were lost.