The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.
It caused 15,880 deaths as well as 130,000 buildings totally collapsed. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. Residents within a 20 km (12 mi) radius of the Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated.
The World Bank's estimated economic cost was US$235 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in world history.
The government of Haiti estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. The earthquake caused major damage in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and other settlements in the region. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail.
The earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (98 ft) high.
It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
Approximately 6,434 people lost their lives; about 4,600 of them were from Kobe. Among major cities, Kobe, with its population of 1.5 million, was the closest to the epicenter and hit by the strongest tremors.
This was Japan's second worst earthquake in the 20th century. It caused approximately ten trillion yen ($100 billion) in damage, 2.5% of Japan's GDP at the time.
Chinese government official sources state a magnitude of 7.8. It was followed by a major 7.1 magnitude aftershock some 16 hours later, increasing the death toll to over 255,000.
The number of deaths initially reported by the Chinese government was 655,000, but this number has since been stated to be around 240,000 to 255,000.[ Another report indicates that the actual death toll was much higher, at approximately 650,000 and explains that the lower estimates are limited to Tangshan and exclude fatalities in the densely populated surrounding areas.