With Japan in darkness at this hour (11am CST), the reports of the devastation left by what the U.S. Geological Survey says is in the top 5 largest earthquakes to hit the planet since 1900, are just filtering in. Footage of terrifying 13 foot tsunami waves cascading across city streets in the northern coast of Japan are enough to strike fear in the calmest of us. The quake hit in the middle of the afternoon, during the height of Japan's workday, thousands are presumed dead and more missing. The LA Times has some of the most powerful pictures of the devastation.

But this isn't the first quake to scar this area of the Pacific Rim. According to the USGS;
The March 11 earthquake was preceded by a series of large foreshocks over the previous two days, beginning on March 9th with an M 7.2 event approximately 40 km from today's (March 11th) earthquake, and continuing with a further 3 earthquakes greater than M6 on the same day.
The Japan Trench subduction zone has hosted 9 events of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973. The largest of these was an M 7.8 earthquake approximately 260 km to the north of the March 11 event, in December 1994, which caused 3 fatalities and almost 700 injuries. In June of 1978, an M 7.7 earthquake 35 km to the southwest caused 22 fatalities and over 400 injuries.

This is the largest of 18 earthquakes around the globe since the first of the year. This includes three smaller quakes in the US, two of which occoured in Arkansas and one in Northern California.

The biggest earthquake of modern history hit southern Chile in 1960, killing almost 2,000 people and causing damage up the coast as far as the US. In addition to an ensuing tsunami, two days after the initial disaster the Puyehue volcano exploded.
With tsunami warnings posted for the entire West Coast of North and South America. National Geographic's online site has a great page with detailed info on tsunami's.
The video below shows just a hint of the emotional footage to come.



This is a live stream from a Japanese TV station:


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