It was just after 1am on February 27th 2008. I was still up and at my computer when I heard what sounded like a loud crash. My first thought was that my noisy downstairs neighbours were playing silly buggers again, but then everything started to shake. The earthquake – for that was indeed what it was – only lasted a few seconds, but it was strong enough to make its impact felt in large parts of the UK.
At a magnitude of 5.2, the earthquake I and many others felt that night, although deeply disconcerting, was absolutely nothing compared to the massive quakes experienced in recent months and years by countries as diverse as Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, and now Japan (in fact, some of the many and continuing aftershocks that have resulted from Friday’s terrible Japanese quake have been significantly more powerful than that).
As a demonstration of the enormous and unstoppable power of nature, the sheer destructive force of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday was truly awesome (in the original sense of that word) – and, scientifically, as it reached a magnitude of 9.0, it was also one of the most powerful recorded quakes of the last 100 years or so.
The results of this powerful earthquake have been devastating, even in a country as well-prepared for and as used to earthquakes as Japan. Many settlements on the affected coastline have been swept away by tsunami waves up to ten metres high, and a number of the country’s network of nuclear power stations have been seriously (possibly catastrophically) damaged by the quake.