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Japan's Tsunami Topped 37 Meters

TOKYO—The 11 March tsunami that inundated coastal regions of northeast Japan was 37.9 meters high in at least one location. That's tall enough to engulf a 10-story building. But "we think we will see [evidence of] bigger waves in other areas," says Satoko Oki, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute.

A survey team from the institute found high water marks and other evidence for the monster wave in the port of Koborinai in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. The results of the area survey were posted yesterday on the institute Web site in Japanese. An English translation is expected in a week to 10 days.

Oki says the local topography—the port is on low land sandwiched between two mountains—probably contributed to the size of the wave. Despite its size, the wave isn't a record for Japan: A 38.2-meter tsunami struck farther south along the northeast coast in 1896. Oki says the team might find telltale signs of higher waves as it extends its survey southward into more hard-hit areas closer to the epicenter of the quake. She expects the team will post its next update in about a week.