The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku (東北地方太平洋沖地震), often referred to in Japan as the Great East Japan Earthquake and also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, and the 3.11 Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday 11 March 2011, with the epicentre approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 30 km (19 mi). It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and the fifth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 2.4 m (8 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in), and generated sound waves detected by the low orbiting GOCE satellite.
On 10 February 2014, a Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,884 deaths, 6,148 injured, and 2,633 people missing across twenty prefectures, as well as 127,290 buildings totally collapsed, with a further 272,788 buildings ‘half collapsed’, and another 747,989 buildings partially damaged. The earthquake and tsunami also caused extensive and severe structural damage in north-eastern Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan.” Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.