Mon, Jun 01, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Japanese seismologists renew call for preparation after massive earthquake


Passengers at the Shinbashi Station in Tokyo on Saturday check train schedules after services were suspended following an earthquake.

Photo: Reuters

Seismologists yesterday warned Japan to stay vigilant for the next “big one” after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit off the coast of the earthquake-prone nation, injuring a dozen people.

Buildings swayed for about a minute in Tokyo and its vicinity on Saturday night as the earthquake struck at a remote spot in the Pacific Ocean about 874km south of the capital, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Despite its power, there was no risk of a tsunami, as its hypocenter was 676km below the Earth’s surface, the USGS and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Twelve people were injured, including a 56-year-old man who suffered broken ribs, but no one was killed, an official of the Tokyo Fire Department and local media said yesterday.

About 400 people were trapped on the observation decks of the Tokyo Tower as its elevators stopped for more than one hour.

Runways at Tokyo International Airport were closed for about 30 minutes, with trains also temporarily halted, while a soccer match in the city was briefly suspended.

There were no reported anomalies at any of the region’s mothballed nuclear power plants.

Saturday’s earthquake was the second sizeable tremor Tokyo has experienced in a week, after a much less powerful — but far shallower — earthquake hit close to the capital on Monday last week.

Some experts warn recent earthquakes and volcano eruptions might be signs that areas near the country are entering “an active phase of crustal changes.”

“I can say Japan is in an active stage now,” Tokai University Earthquake Prediction Research Center head Toshiyasu Nagao said.

“Considering the geographic location of Japan, we can say the current activities are rather normal and it was too quiet” before the 2011 jolt, Nagao told reporters.

“We should be vigilant by knowing that it is no wonder that an earthquake sizeable enough to affect our society can occur anytime in the future,” he said.

University of Tokyo Earthquake Research Institute professor Kazuki Koketsu said the latest tremor was unlikely to be a sign of a potential big jolt in capital, which was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1923.

However, “it is important to regard it as an opportunity to prepare for a future quake,” Koketsu told TV Asahi.

Japan sits at the meeting place of four tectonic plates and experiences about 20 percent of the world’s most powerful earthquakes every year.

However, rigid building codes and strict enforcement mean even powerful earthquakes frequently do little damage.

On Friday, a volcano in the far south of Japan erupted, spewing a huge column of ash high into the sky and forcing authorities to evacuate the island on which it sits.

The eruption caused no injuries and no damage was reported, but it served as yet another reminder of the volatile geology of the country.

A massive undersea earthquake that hit in March 2011 sent a tsunami barreling into Japan’s northeast coast, killing thousands of people and sending three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The nuclear disaster, the world’s worst since Chernobyl, displaced tens of thousands of people and rendered tracts of land uninhabitable, possibly for decades.

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