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New Street View images of Japan tsunami disaster show full extent of damage

Back in July, Google announced its intention to digitally archive the devastation caused by March’s tsunami in north-eastern Japan, which claimed the lives of nearly 20,000 people. “This [Street View] imagery will help people in Japan and across the world remember and observe the tragedy of March 11, 2011,” the Mountain View company said.

In a post on the official Google blog on Tuesday, it said that after driving more than 27,000 miles (44,000 km) through the affected areas, the images could now be viewed.

“A virtual tour via Street View profoundly illustrates how much these natural disasters have transformed these communities,” Street View’s senior product manager Kei Kawai wrote in the post.

“If you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the idyllic countryside change dramatically, becoming cluttered with mountains of rubble and debris as you get closer to the ocean. In the cities, buildings that once stood proud are now empty spaces.”

The special Memories for the Future website also shows before/after comparisons – where old Street View images are available – accessible by clicking the green ‘before’ button at the top right of the webpage. In addition, all images are now date stamped in the bottom right corner.

“When looking at images of the magnificent cities side-by-side with images of the ruins left in their place, this additional context demonstrates how truly life-changing this tragedy has been for those who live there and witnessed the destruction of their homes, neighborhoods and even entire districts,” Kawai wrote.

He added that Google hoped the archiving of images from the disaster area would help researchers and scientists studying the effects of natural disasters, and said that the street-level imagery “puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations.”

The massive quake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan on March 11, laying waste to many communities along the country’s north-eastern coast and badly damaging the Fukushima nuclear power plant. 

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