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Six videos of the Japanese tsunami [Video]

March 9, 2012 |  4:30 am


Nearly a year ago, Japan was struck by a massive earthquake that unleashed a terrifying tsunami on the coast. The disaster killed an estimated 19,000 people and destroyed more than 120,000 buildings.

As it approaches the anniversary of the quake on Sunday, the country is still recovering from the devastating event, left stalled at the cleanup stage, Christopher Hawthorne reports for The Times.

Politicians and architects disagree over whether to rebuild fishing villages that were already dwindling in numbers or to consolidate them. Ugly truths about Japanese poverty have been laid bare.

As Japan grapples with what to do next, we look back at the day the disaster struck the country. When the tsunami hit, it was captured on camera not just by news crews but by ordinary people whose eyewitness footage showed what the disaster was like on the ground.

To remind us of the sheer enormity of this disaster, here are six videos of the tsunami -- from the air, from the ground and even from inside a car. 

In the first video, people flee on foot as the tsunami sweeps into their neighborhood, sending buses and cars barreling toward them. The person behind the camera bolts:

The water rises relentlessly in this video, streaming past the camera, until it grows so powerful that it carries a small building away:

This is what the tsunami looked like from inside a car. The car slowly begins to bob among a mounting stream of debris, at one point colliding with another occupied vehicle. At the very end, a wave appears to splash over the car:

This footage of a black wave of water pouring over a seawall was widely used in news reports, showing the power of the tsunami:

People walking on the street panic and run as the water begins pouring into their town, sometimes stopping to gawk at the deluge before turning to flee again. The person filming the video makes it to the top of a tall building to look out at the wreckage swirling below:

This footage from Channel 4 News in Britain shows the tsunami pouring into the port town of Miyako City, creating a churning mass of debris:


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles 

Photo: Waves overwhelm a levee at a seaside village near the mouth of the Hei River in Japan on March 11, 2011. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency / AFLO / Mainichi Newspaper