Major Damage From Modest Surge: The Destructive Power of Japan’s 1-Meter Tsunami

The powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of central Japan on January 1st, 2024 serves as a sobering reminder of the devastating force of even small tsunamis. Within minutes of the quake, tsunami waves exceeding one meter arrived onshore, crashing into coastal towns with the force of a one-ton truck.

M7.4 Earthquake Hitting Japan, Tsunami Over 1m Observed. January 1, 2024(Noto, Ishikawa, Japan)
What a 1 meter tsunami force looks like
A one-meter tall tsunami has the force of one tonne

“That’s pretty frightening actually,” commented one Redditor. Though the tsunami waves climbed just over 3 feet, they contained tremendous destructive energy in the form of debris-filled currents powerful enough to wash away buildings.

Tsunami waves can seem deceptively calm, slowly rising up beaches and across fields. But underneath, they churn with devastating strength. “It’s more violent than that, but even if it wasn’t you would then get ground to a pulp by buildings, debris, and vehicles,” described one commenter.

Anything not strongly anchored was swept away as the tsunami waters rushed inland along Japan’s coastline. Even shallow one-meter surges rendered roads impassable and floated away cars. The danger persists with tsunamis arriving in multiple waves, exposing the coast to repeated damage.

“As long as the aftershocks keep coming, the tsunami danger isn’t gone,” cautioned one Redditor. Japan remained on high alert with evacuation orders in place, as arriving waves continued posing a lethal risk.

The tsunami capped a terrifying start to 2024 for residents near the earthquake’s epicenter off the Noto Peninsula. Damage was reported across Ishikawa Prefecture, with collapsed structures trapping victims and fires breaking out.

While Japan has stringent earthquake-resistant building codes, commenters marveled at the footage showing many houses surviving intact. “That’s some good architecture,” said one Reddit user. Still, the violent shaking caused cracks across roads and roof tiles crashing down.

Though the coast bore the brunt of the damage, the ground movement radiated outward, toppling goods from shelves as far as Tokyo. High-speed rail lines, highways, and airports halted service in affected areas due to damage. Over 32,000 households lost power.

As Japan continues assessing the full toll of the disaster, the New Year’s Day tsunami stands as a stark display of how even one meter waves can inflict calamity. Though small compared to the 2011 mega-tsunami, the surges of January 2024 left indelible scars on coastal towns through the raw power contained in even modest walls of water.

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