At 2:46 P.M. local time March 11, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck Sendai, a port city of one million residents in northeastern Japan. It was the largest earthquake recorded in Japan in the last century.
The earthquake razed entire towns, buckled highways and swayed skyscrapers as far away as Tokyo, 300 kilometers to the southwest. Four-meter-high walls of water charged through coastal cities, sweeping away cars and houses, and setting factories ablaze. Tsunami warnings were issued across the Pacific Rim.