I find a good way to shorten is to chip away words here and there:
(22 words)Something unbelievable happened in Tohoku area, the northern part of
Japan. *It was the world’s largest quake and tsunami on March 11th.
(17 words)Something unbelievable happened in Tohoku, in northern
Japan on March 11th- the world’s largest quake and tsunami.
(21 words)The quake and tsunami was devastating, and destroyed cities and towns
and has taken away the lives of many people there.
(13 words)They were devastating, destroying cities and towns
and taking the lives of thousands.
BTW I read it was the 5th largest earthquake.