Japan: Apocalypse now

To call it the biggest story in the world doesn’t capture the magnitude. At the moment, it’s really the only story in the world. But even so, it’s confounding to write about. No words are adequate to convey the scale of the forces at work; the obvious points, that the entire country would look like Hiroshima right now if not for Japanese engineering and preparedness, are too obvious to repeat; and there’s no obvious political angle to blather on about, although some on the left are giving it a go by complaining about GOP budget cuts for tsunami alerts. The one worthy point made that I’ve seen is John Podhoretz anticipating rejuvenated opposition to nuclear power in the U.S. At last check, “very small” amounts of radioactive gas were deliberately being released into the atmosphere at a Japanese nuclear plant damaged by today’s quake to stabilize the pressure inside. You’ll be reminded of that frequently if/when America tries to move ahead on this particular specie of “clean energy.”

This is, in other words, not so much an event to be written about as it is to be experienced. Hence the massive circulation online of viral vids out of Japan capturing the quake. Ed embedded a few this morning but I’m going to give you several of the more amazing ones I’ve come across here. If you find others elsewhere that are worth passing along — there’s no shortage of variety, as every news site in the world has some sort of video round-up posted right now — please e-mail us at our tips address.

First, the moment of truth. Listen to the sound of it.

Via Breitbart, skyscrapers in motion. Not only was Tokyo prepared structurally, it actually received a warning before the tremors began that a quake was coming thanks to a Japanese seismographic early alert system.

I can’t tell if these are two different villages or the same one, but this is what I mean about words failing when trying to describe the destruction. You’re seeing whole towns washed away here.

Kesennuma, home to 74,000. It looks like color footage from World War II.

Via Pop Sci, an amazing animation from the NOAA illustrating the power of the tremor across the Pacific. The Telegraph explained it this way: Imagine a boulder the size of the Isle of Wight being dropped into the ocean. The Times has other maps in this vein.

If you’re starved for more, the Atlantic has astounding photos. And here’s one, not quite as astounding, of the tsunami finally rolling into the bay area in California. Like I said above, if you see videos elsewhere worth posting, don’t be shy with your tips.

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