The big news in Japan is the earthquake that happened at 7:58 am local time Monday morning, a strong 6.1 magnitude quake centered in the densely-populated northern Osaka region, which so far has resulted in three deaths as well as dozens of fires, broken water mains and halted trains. June is the start of pool season for Japanese schools, and many students were at the pool in their swimwear, ready to start swimming lessons when the quake struck. Sadly, one of the three deaths was a nine year old girl who was standing near an old wall made of concrete blocks which collapsed when the shaking started. Earthquakes in Japan are always hard.
The biggest fear with any quake in the Hanshin area (the word means “Osaka and Kobe”) is that it might trigger a much-feared “Nankai megathrust quake” in the Nankai Trough, an undersea fault to the south of the region. These quakes occur every 100 years or so, and have caused huge tsunamis costing many thousands of lives in the past.
One of the benefits of earthquakes in Japan is that they offer ways to improve for the future, and the government always takes advantage of these events to learn. Japan upgraded its building codes in the aftermath of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe in 1995, and made automatic gas shutoff equipment standard after a quake that hit during lunchtime, when Tokyoites were cooking with gas stoves, causing many fires to ignite. While it’s not easy living in a country with so many earthquakes — nearby Mt. Asama likes to erupt every few years, which always feels like the Kanto Plain has dropped a two feet all at once — I know I’m not misguided placing my family’s safety in the hands of Japan’s excellent technology and sound disaster planning.
(If you live in an earthquake-prone area, maybe now is a good time to review your preparedness, as well as working out how to contact loved ones?)
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