Revised quake estimates predict 9,700 deaths in Tokyo

04/25/2012
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Tokyo Metropolitan government revamps quake plans

TOKYO (majirox news) — The 5.4 magnitude earthquake this morning was a reminder to residents of Tokyo that they live in a seismically active zone. Though today’s 5:22 a.m. quake near Chiba was minor (on the Japanese intensity scale, it measured a 4, and a 3 in Tokyo and surrounding areas), a major temblor in Japan’s capital would cause severe destruction and heavy loss of life.

Revised projections (the first in six years) for a massive earthquake striking Tokyo predict nearly 9,700 dead and 150,000 injured, with 5.16 million people unable to get home. Approximately 57 percent of those deaths would be from earthquake damage and from fires, which would extend throughout the city’s 23 wards. Damage to property would be severe, with 300,000 buildings destroyed and many being burned to the ground.

As well as people and buildings, the quake would strike a severe blow to Japan’s economy.

“We can expect over 1.3 trillion dollars of damage,” said Chikara Hoke, a director of the Tokyo Metropolitan government, “if an earthquake of this scale occurs in Tokyo.”

These estimates are based on a 7.3 magnitude quake centered in Tokyo Bay, and striking at 6 p.m. in the winter.

Nor is this a remote possibility, according to the University of Tokyo’s Research Center. There is a 50 percent chance that a “megaquake,” similar to that which devastated Tohoku last year, will occur in the region within four years.

The Tokyo Metropolitan government is attempting to plan ahead.

“We have a city ordinance in Tokyo that asks businesses to prepare goods in case of a disaster,” Hoke says. “That¹s because when we have a big disaster, it becomes very hard for workers to return home, so we’re asking employers to provide some food and have workers stay put.” It would, after all, take about three days for supplies to reach Tokyo by truck following a major quake.

And what about the injured? How will they receive treatment, if they cannot reach hospitals? Hoke’s says, “We will prepare evacuation centers for those who need them. And as it could be difficult for people to go to hospitals to we are planning to have emergency medical centers at the ward, town and neighborhood level and conduct emergency medical care there.”

However, given this latest estimate, Tokyo is planning revisions to its disaster preparedness plans, to be introduced in September.

But the focus of power in Tokyo: political, administrative, business, and economic, worries some.

Naoyuki Ogi, a manager of BDK in Tokyo, says, “What I most worry about is that the political power of the government offices, the economy and other important powers of Japan are concentration Tokyo. So if a big earthquake hit Tokyo, we would lose everything at once. It scares me. Such a power with economies and major industries should be dispersed around the country before a big earthquake attacks Tokyo.”

Whatever your view of the preparedness of the government, it behooves all residents of Japan to stay alert, and to keep some emergency supplies and materials to hand.

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