One good source for breaking news is the English Version of the online news from the Japan Broadcasting Network.
For basic facts of the quake and seismic history of the area, go to this USGS website. And an amazing amount of descriptive info has been posted in Wikipedia. Another useful site is the MCEER Center at SUNY/Buffalo, which maintains a chronological list of major articles and reports.
Earlier I mentioned Crisis Commons, a crowdsourcing and mapping info site. Consider the fact that this source and also Wikipedia are done entirely by volunteers. Great work everyone who helped!!
Apparently the Honshu location was a surprise to Japanese seismic experts; similarly, the Christchurch, N.Z. location was a surprise to experts in that country. As I recall, the Kiwis thought Wellington had the greatest risk. Clearly, earthquake science is an ongoing learning experience.
Financial Aspects — among the anxious watchers of the outcome of the earthquakes and tsunamis emanating from Japan are the major insurance and reinsurance companies. Some are already involved in payout for the N.Z. quake. See this financial account from a German newspaper. I am not sure how they make the calculation, but already they have estimated the cost of damage in Japan at $100B. Additional information about the reinsurance concerns is an an article in Business Week today.
Economic Impacts — See Quake Disrupts Key Supply Chains, Wall St. Journal, March 12,
Preparedness — three takes on Japan’s capabilities in this area:
- On the positive side, see the article titled How Japan Became a Leader in Disaster Preparation in Time magazine online, March. 11.
- Questioning the limits of preparedness, see March 11th NY Times article titled The Limits of Safeguards and Human Foresight. It begins:
Here’s the truly scary thing about the 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Honshu Island and its resulting tsunami: Japan is a country that is lauded for doing preparedness right. Japan is a rich, high-tech nation with much rough experience of seismic rumblings: those factors have led it to plan, and plan well, for disaster, with billions spent over the years on developing and deploying technologies to limit the damage from temblors and tsunamis. Those steps almost certainly kept the death count lower than it might otherwise be — especially in comparison with the multitudes lost in recent earthquakes in China and Haiti. Last Friday, however, showed the limits of what even the best preparation can do
- Additional commentary worth considering from Andrew Revkin, blogger for the N.Y. Times.
Japan is a best case because it has three vital things: wealth, technological skill and sufficiently frequent seismic activity to boost political will to invest against the worst case. The Pacific Northwest has two out of three, which isn’t evidently good enough.
- Reinsurance stocks slump after Japan quake (marketwatch.com)
- European Reinsurers Tumble After Earthquake Rocks Japan (businessweek.com)