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Japanese boy looking down at ruined hometown Near a school in Japan, a boy looks down at rubble leftover from the earthquake that devastated his hometown on March 11. (Kyodo via AP Images)

Japan's Struggle

Aftershocks continue to strike as the nation tries to recover

By Tyrus Cukavac | March 28 , 2011

Monday morning, Japan’s main island, Honshu, was struck by a major aftershock. Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that follow an earthquake. They occur as the crust, or top layer of the Earth, readjusts after a quake.

The magnitude, or strength, of this quake was a 6.5 out of a scale of 10 used to measure earthquakes. By comparison, the
major earthquake in New Zealand was a 6.3. Although no one was reported hurt by this morning’s quake, fears of more aftershocks have hindered recovery efforts, or made them more difficult.

Japan has had hundreds of aftershocks since the disaster. About sixty of them have been stronger than 6.0.

LASTING EFFECTS

The initial earthquake, on March 11, was a 9.0 and one of the strongest ever recorded. It was so powerful, scientists estimate that parts of the country actually shifted more than eight feet. Areas on the Japanese coast have also sunk slightly, making them more vulnerable during a tsunami.

Anytime there is a major shift in land like that, it can affect the Earth’s rotation as well. This means the earthquake might have permanently affected the length of an Earth day, possibly shortening it by 1.8 microseconds (millionths of a second).

Some scientists had speculated that the New Zealand quake might have set off the Japan earthquake. A recent study essentially disproved this, concluding that earthquakes can cause other earthquakes only within a range of 600 miles.

TWO WEEKS LATER

As the Japanese people continue to pick up the pieces, about 11,000 people have been confirmed dead. Officials estimate the final toll could be at least 18,000. Additionally, 240,000 have been left homeless and are living in shelters.

Japan also continues to deal with a nuclear crisis, caused by earthquake and tsunami damage to nuclear power stations. Workers have tirelessly attempted to contain any radiation, or high-energy rays, from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Radiation levels in nearby seawater, however, are as much as 1,850 times the normal level. Nearby farms and fishermen are unable to sell their food because of fears that radiation has seeped into the soil and ocean.

Amid the destruction, Japan’s citizens are trying to get back to their everyday lives. Graduation ceremonies have resumed, and the first pitch of the Japanese baseball season has been scheduled for April 12. Although the path to recovery will be long and difficult, Japan has begun to take its first steps.

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