On March 11th 2011 a massive under sea earthquake occurred approximately 70 kilometres to the east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku. It measured 9 on the Richter scale and was the largest earthquake on record in Japanese history, and the world’s fourth most powerful earthquake in modern memory. The earthquake moved the island of Honshu 2.4 metres east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm and 25 cm.
The waves overtopped protective tsunami seawalls in several locations, devastating everything in their path. The massive surge destroyed over 125,000 buildings, including many high-rise structures where people had gathered for safety. A staggering 15,889 people lost their lives, mostly from drowning.
The tsunami caused severe nuclear accidents, primarily the Level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. Residents within a 20 km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and a 10 km radius of the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated.
The world responded immediately with support and aid from 116 countries. Volunteers from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States were among those that gave their time to try and offer their fellow humans some relief from this monumental tragedy. Four years later, over 2,500 people are still missing. Many survivors are still living in shelters, and some continue to comb the coast for some sign of their loved ones.
The combination of the unexpected earthquake, the incredibly powerful tsunami and the nuclear crisis makes the events at Tohoku one of the worst natural disasters to have hit the world. Yesterday, March 11 2017 The Vale Niseko was alight with snow candles to honour the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives, and those who lost everything else. Thank you for helping us mark this occasion with light and love.