Japan's Killer Quake: Preview

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In its worst crisis since World War II, Japan faces disaster on an epic scale: a rising death toll in the tens of thousands, massive destruction of homes and businesses, shortages of water and power, and the specter of nuclear meltdown at three reactors. The facts and figures are astonishing.

The March 11th earthquake was the world’s fourth largest earthquake since record keeping began in 1900 and the worst ever to shake Japan. The seismic shock wave released over 4,000 times the energy of the largest nuclear test ever conducted; it shifted the earth’s axis by 6 inches and shortened the day by a few millionths of a second. The tsunami slammed Japan’s coast with 30 feet-high waves that traveled 6 miles inland, obliterating entire towns in a matter of minutes.

Beyond its suspenseful unfolding of day-to-day events, Japan’s Killer Quake one-hour documentary will explore the disaster’s broader implications and feature leading earthquake scientists who will look for evidence of whether the quake fully relieved the strain on the fault, or whether is a risk of serious future shocks.

Japan’s Killer Quake will also explore the risk of a comparable disaster on the US west coast, where earthquake preparedness is nowhere near as advanced as in Japan. What can be done to anticipate the worst? Or it is simply impractical to design ahead for the kind of extremely rare and unlikely combination of deadly factors that came together on March 11th?

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