Even in Japan's turbulent seismic history, the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Friday was one for the record books. The quake—the fifth-largest recorded since 1900 and the biggest to hit Japan in three centuries—released almost 1,000 times the energy released in the Haiti quake a year ago. The resulting 30-foot-tall tsunami slammed into Japan's northern coast and swept away people cars, boats and buildings.
Auto plants, electronics factories and refineries shut, roads buckled and power to millions of homes and businesses was knocked out. Several airports, including Tokyo's Narita, were closed and rail services halted. All ports were shut.