When you hear that an earthquake has struck Japan, you give a sigh of relief, you know that the risk of loss of people is smaller than in other countries because they are so used to tremors that they are really well prepared to face them: buildings are built to suffer the shaking of the earth, and people are trained to behave accordingly in the situation. But this time the largest eathquake in living history has hit the country and, even though most buildings remained standing, it was the subsequent tsunami that hit the Pacific coastal towns the one responsible for the still rising death toll.
An earthquake is caused by the movement of the mantle underneath the crust of the earth. Have a look at this explanatory video.
If the earthquake occurs under the sea bed, a tsunami or giant wave can be formed. This wave can be almost unnoticed at sea, but when it reaches the shore it can be really high, flooding villages and towns in a matter of minutes.
There is a simple explanation in this video:
Not everything is over when the earth stops trembling. People in affected areas know that there will be several aftershocks, many of which will be of an intensity similar to that of the first tremor. This intensity is graded thanks to the Richter scale, which goes from 0 to 10. The Japan earthquake has been measured as a 9 magnitude one, making it one of the biggest in recent history. Its epicentre was six miles below the surface of the sea off the shores of Sendai, a coastal town that was literally washed by the giant wave. Even though the inhabitants were forewarned, they didn't have much time to react, as the waves travel at really high speed. Unfortunatelly, many people were caught in the nightmare.
Rescue teams from Japan and foreign countries have been sent to help the people in the struck areas and refugees have been put up in public buildings as they have been left homeless. Electricity has been cut off in many areas and communications are difficult.
But bad though things are at the moment, it could still get worse if the reactor of one of the nuclear power stations that suffered from the quake cannot be cooled down. I shudder to even think of that! Let's hope for the best!
The words in bold are defined in this presentation:
Now you can do this crossword about earthquake vocabulary
In this blog, two British tourists travelling in Japan, relate their own experience of the disaster.