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Disaster preparedness in Tokyo (1)

On September 1, 1923, one of the world’s most destructive earthquakes, the Great Kanto earthquake with Magnitude 7.9, struck the Kanto Plain on the Japanese main island of Honshu. Its epicenter was situated in the Sagami Bay, 80 km south of Tokyo. However, it took only 44 seconds for the first shockwaves to hit Tokyo.

Extreme destruction from the earthquake and subsequent firestorms, which burnt roughly 66 percent of the city to the ground, and the total death amounted to around 140,000. This earthquake devastated Tokyo, the port city of Yokohama, and the surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka, and caused widespread damage throughout the Kanto region.

It is predicted that there is a 70 percent possibility of another major earthquake like this Great Kanto earthquake, directly hitting the greater Tokyo area within the next 30 years. Some scientists estimate at 70% in the next four years. The “Big One” is going to come one of these days. “It is not if, but when” a disaster will occur.

Preparation for the “Big One” in Tokyo has taken on more urgency after two devastating temblors struck in Kyushu recently. On April 14, 2016 Kumamoto Prefecture sustained the biggest quake in the country since the March 2011 disaster. The quake, with a magnitude of 6.5, was followed by some 28 hours later by another registering a magnitude of 7.3. This kind of double strike hadn’t been foreseen by experts.

A magnitude-7 earthquake occurring directly under greater Tokyo may result in as many as 23,000 fatalities and $856 billion in economic damage, according to the Cabinet office’s Disaster Management in a Japan white paper for 2015.

The government is aiming to reduce that number by half by reinforcing more houses, preventing fires and attempting to lessen population densities in areas at most risk from an earthquake. (Floro Mercene)