The earthquake with its epicentre outside the northeastern coast of the Japanese main island of Honshu seems to have been an unusually bad one even by Japanese standards. By being an 8 on the Richter scale it is one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded, and even if it struck the most earthquake-prepared country in the world, the devastation is massive.
Even if the actual earthquake itself most likely made for a not insignificant amount of damage, the really horrible part is without doubt the giant tsunami that it produced. With waves of up to ten metres, there simply cannot have been much in the way of disaster preparation that have withstood the destructive forces of the water.
One question that draws to mind is if this was the great earthquake that is expected to strike the Kanto region anytime now and to be compared to the destructive 1923 Kanto earthquake. According to the seismologists it maybe was not. Which provides for an equally horrible disaster scenario if that is the case. Because even if this current one struck further north than Tokyo it definitely to some degree affected the city as well, and we can only try to imagine if an earthquake of equal power would strike even closer to the Tokyo metropolitan region, considering the extreme destruction made by this current earthquake and tsunami on a less populated region than Kanto.
In either case, what is unfolding is a tragedy and unfortunately a very harsh reminder of how small we humans are compared to nature’s powers.