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College of Charleston professor discusses Japan tsunami tragedy - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

College of Charleston professor discusses Japan tsunami tragedy

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC/CNN) - A College of Charleston professor described the Japan tsunami as a wall rather than waves impacting the country. It's the largest Japanese earthquake in 100 years that sparked the Pacific tsunami.

"Japan specifically had a subduction earthquake. And what you have happening is one log raft or plate going down underneath another and as it slides down it gets stuck," Associate Professor Dr. Erin Beutel says. "And when it snaps up,it displaces water, and the water flows away towards the shore line."

It also sparked fires in at least 80 locations, Kyodo news reported. Its epicenter was offshore 373 kilometers (231 miles) away from Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said.

"In terms of size for the entire globe for the last 100 years, we are looking at this being the fifth largest," Dr. Beutel says.

The tsunami hit the coastal village of Sendai, washing away and destroying everything in its path. Charleston resident Tracy Bush who lived and traveled in Japan for several years, knows the city of Sendai well and is concerned for her friends who are still there.

"I was shocked. I was worried. I was really, really shocked by the magnitude it was just unbelievable, an 8.9 earthquake," Bush says.

It also sparked fires in at least 80 locations, Kyodo news reported. Its epicenter was offshore 373 kilometers (231 miles) away from Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said.

But residents there continued to feel aftershocks hours after the quake. More than 30 aftershocks followed, with the strongest measuring 7.1.

"That's the mega quake and the tsunami and just knowing that area really well and worrying about the people I know," Bush says. "I think everybody will come together. But I just can't imagine what it's like for them."

The quake was the latest in a series in the region this week.

Early Thursday, an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck off the coast of Honshu.  A day earlier, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake had struck off the same coast, the country's meteorological agency said.

The largest recorded quake took place in Chile on May 22, 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5, the USGS said.

The quake Friday was the fifth-strongest in the world since 1900, the agency said and the most powerful to hit Japan since then.

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