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16 March 2011

On video: Japan’s tsunami

Astonishing footage shows the moment when a series of waves ripped through Japan’s eastern coast.

By Duncan Robinson

It’s difficult to grasp the scale of the events in Japan from the previous few days. In this week’s New Statesman, the author Susanna Jones sums up the problem:

News reports describe the scenes from northern Japan as being from a horror film. Watching television footage of the events and discussing it with friends, I find the same phrase comes to mind. It is a cliché, as it is to talk of apocalypse and nightmare, but when something is beyond our experience, we reach for the points of reference we have.

The damage the tsunami caused is nearly incomprehensible. The footage we have available is only a snapshot of the devastation. In the clip below, a helicopter films the oncoming waves.

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The video below is 15 minutes long and taken from a rolling news report. In it, water spreads over acres of farmland, houses and roads. Cars can be seen trying and failing to outrun the tsunami, before the camera cuts away.

This video shows the sheer power of the first waves that struck Japan’s north-eastern coast.

In the following clip, a town is washed away as a handful of people are rescued from the rising water.

The most iconic footage of the entire disaster, however, is this video. It shows at close hand the effect of the tsunami as it rips through the cameraman’s town.