Damage beyond imagination is unfolding in the wake of the massive earthquake that hit Japan on March 11. More than 5,000 people are confirmed dead or missing, and the death toll is expected to reach into the tens of thousands. In the Miyagi Prefecture town of Minami Sanriku alone, around 10,000 people are unaccounted for.

The quake, whose magnitude was upgraded by the Meteorological Agency from the original 8.8 to 9 — the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan — together with the ensuing tsunami forced 550,000 people mainly in prefectures along the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region to evacuate. The quake and tsunami destroyed some 50,000 structures. The destruction wrought by the tsunami alone is unknown at this point, but its severity can be gauged by two examples: It inundated more than 80 percent of the urban area of the city of Rikuzen Takada, Iwate Prefecture, destroying some 5,000 houses and buildings. In the city of Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, the tsunami obliterated some 1,800 houses and buildings.

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