Monday, April 18, 2016

Feeling The Earth Move

"There is a 98 percent chance that an earthquake of similar or greater force than the Great Kanto Earthquake will hit Tokyo in the next 30 years, according to scientists at Tokyo University, while seismologists with the Japan Meteorological Agency reckon the odds are about seven in ten that this will happen."
"In fact, Japan is earthquake central. One in five quakes worldwide strikes the Japanese archipelago. One of the hottest potential quake zones has been identified directly below Tokyo."
Matthew Fisher, Canadian journalist, Tokyo

Damage left by Japan's earthquakes.
Damage left by Japan's earthquakes. (Reuters)
 

"One major landslide tore open a mountainside in Minamiaso village in Kumamoto prefecture, destroying a key bridge that could cut off food and other relief transport to the worst-hit area.
Another landslide hit a road, collapsing a house that fell down a ravine. In another part of the village, houses were left hanging precariously at the edge of a huge hole."
The Guardian
People living in Japan are accustomed -- but never comfortable with their expectations -- to suddenly feeling the earth quaking under their feet. They might be in a high rise or an office tower and become aware that everything is moving that shouldn't be moving, they might be in the out-of-doors and suddenly it is the earth itself and everything on it that is swaying vertiginously. They might be at home and then without warning pictures on the walls slant, porcelain sitting in cabinets tip over and smash, and they look at one another, transfixed with apprehension.

But there are just so many of these quakes, minor and swiftly done with, although at the time they're occurring, and that strange sound of a large, noisy engine roaring its presence, which isn't a tractor-trailer driving down the street but something at first undefinable and frightening, and becoming no less frightening with the realization that it is a temblor, alerts one to yet another massive disturbance of the tectonic plates under Japan's three islands.

The urge is to stay, not to exit one's house. The urge is not to open the cupboard door that holds that backpack with its emergency supplies -- to enable one to survive for a few days until things settle down and government emergency groups swing into action -- and head outside. The urge is to sit there, to wait until it's over, hoping that it will soon be over, but the problem is that time becomes elongated, endless, and the fear remains because the sound and the movement  don't seem to be stopping, they seem to be going on forever...

The latest two earthquakes measuring 6.5 and 7.3 magnitude on the Richter scale that struck Kyushu, Japan's southernmost island on Thursday and Saturday have left grim suspense in its wake, as aftershocks continued to strike terror into area residents. Authorities continue to look for survivors in the wreckage of the buildings that succumbed to the shocks leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. Not the level of the 9.0 shock of five years ago, but substantial nevertheless.
Emergency workers trying to rescue people from a collapsed house in Mimamiaso.
Emergency workers in Minimiaso trying to extricate victims from collapsed house - AP


Scientists have advised that a fault 50 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide had sifted in the second temblor. People generally are being held in a suspense of waiting for what may come next. The densely populated main island of Honshu could be next. Tokyo, where close to 40-million people live, is particularly vulnerable. An estimated 142,800 people were killed in 1923 in the Great Kanto Earthquake. The Kobe deathtoll of 1995 was 6,400 dead.


Five years ago a massive quake triggered a colossal tsunami causing the technical breakdown through flooding and a radiation leak of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. One natural disaster causing another, causing a catastrophe and the displacement and deaths of 22,000. Along with an ongoing headache in attempting to stem the leaks from the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Japanese are warned through television networks when a quake will hit moments before it does.

Japan, vulnerable like no other nation on Earth, has changed its traditional building techniques in an effort to make construction protocols attuned to resistance to earth movement. Flexibility of movement and not rigidity is what is required for maximum safety in such an earthquake-prone geology.  Ecuador's Sunday earthquake that killed hundreds happened in a country much less capable of predicting and coping with the aftermath of such monumental natural events.

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