Hell on earth came to the other side of the Pacific.
On March 11th 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck some 40 miles off the coast of Tohoku, triggering a deadly wave of massive tsunamis that wiped entire towns off of the map. Accoring to a 2012 Japan National Police Agency report, the number of deaths is an estimated 15,800 with another 2600 missing since the disaster.
Footage that could only be described as a sneak preview of the apocolypse was being filmed live from news helicopters and soon CCTV footage and amateur video filmed by survivors began circulating on the internet- each video demonstrating the ferocity of the massive, unrelenting waves as they swept away cars, warehouses, boats, cranes, tractor trailers, entire homes, shipping containers and even aircraft.
Even worse, the quake triggered a chain reaction that led to the meltdown of Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, forcing authorities to establish a 20km exclusion zone around the power plant- the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in the USSR [now the Ukraine- NANESB!].
Debris from the tsunami was swept out to sea and began washing up on the west coast of the USA and Canada, including a high school student's volleyball that was signed by her classmates and a derelict fishing vessel that was sunk by the US Coast Guard off the coast of Alaska.
Debris is still showing up on the West coast and in Hawaii- although not in the massive quantites predicted yet. Some researchers say this may be due to the fact that the anticipated debris field wasn't as large as advertised while others maintain the expected debris hasn't travelled as fast as initially calculated.
Japan marked the second anniversary of the disaster with a series of solemn ceremonies offering prayers to the dead throughout the disaster zone. Twenty four months later, much work still needs to be done in the stricken areas.
Efforts to rebuild the disaster-hit region have been slow. Figures show 315,196 people are still without a permanent home, many in cramped temporary housing units.The meltdown at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi's nuclear plant also prompted officals to idle all fifty of Japan's commercial nuclear reacors. Since then, only two have been re-started.
Tsunami-hit communities are divided among those who want to rebuild on land that may have been in the family for generations and those who want to move their towns to higher, safer ground.
Police in Miyagi prefecture were Monday continuing their search for those still listed as missing, with a 50-strong team scouring the coastline.
"We haven't found any bodies for a year," police officer Toshiaki Okajima told AFP.
"But there are still 1,300 missing people in Miyagi alone and the feelings of families haven't changed. That's why the police need to keep looking for remains."