From a psychologist who was in Los Angeles during the Northride quake.
With every fractional increase in the Richter scale, there is an exponential increase in the violence and destruction. Surviving a 9.0 seems a miracle to me. The Japanese people are living in fear, pain, loss, grief, and courage, with all the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I survived the Northridge quake too. Along with PTSD, there is survivor’s guilt. “Why did I / my home survive while others didn’t?” My apartment took a thunderous jolt but there was no damage. Friends though, had structural damage on their homes and everything that could have fallen and broken did.
Northridge was a 6.8, which is less than several of the Japan aftershocks, plus L.A. didn’t have a tsunami or a nuclear plant failure. The people of Japan will need years to recover from this.
BTW, the most common injury in the Northridge quake was lacerated feet. It hit at 4:31 AM, the power was out, and for many, the batteries in the flashlight by the bed were dead. People walked around in bare feet and stepped on broken glass. Always put on shoes with sturdy soles before determining the damage in a disaster!