• Saturday, March 02, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

What you should know about the magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Japan

What you should know about the magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Japan

On the first day of the year, Japan was jolted by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake, leaving a tragic trail in its wake. The serene morning turned into a scene of chaos as the quake ravaged the Noto Peninsula, igniting fire, crumbling buildings, and triggering tsunami alerts. “It was like the earth unleashed its fury without warning,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, noted. The quake’s epicenter, Ishikawa, bore the brunt of the devastation.

The human cost: Lives lost and communities shattered

As the dust settled, the grim reality became evident. Over 73 lives were snatched away by the natural calamity. Hayashi, with a tone of solemnity, shared, “Our rescue teams worked tirelessly, saving 70 people overnight.” The community is united in a race against time, scouring through the rubble for survivors and hoping against hope.

Reminiscent of past horrors

For many, the earthquake revived the haunting memories of the catastrophic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. “It’s a stark reminder of our vulnerability,” expressed a local resident, whose eyes have seen the horrors of both disasters. Japan’s stringent building codes, a response to its long history with earthquakes, have somewhat cushioned the blow, yet the scars of 2011 linger.

Destruction beyond imagination

The aftermath paints a bleak picture. “Entire neighborhoods were wiped out, as if erased by an unseen hand,” Hayashi remarked. In Ishikawa’s marketplace, only smoldering remains tell the tale of a once-thriving hub. Wooden homes, traditional yet fragile, succumbed to the quake’s might, lying in ruins across the town.

Isolated and cut off: The plight of remote areas

Suzu, a town further north, became an isolated island of despair, unreachable by road. Mayor Masuhiro Izumiya’s voice wavered as he reported, “Almost none of our houses withstood the quake.” The community, now relying on boat-delivered aid, is a stark illustration of nature’s indiscriminate wrath.

The struggle for basic necessities

With over 30,000 people seeking refuge in shelters, the struggle for survival intensifies. “We’re short on everything – food, water, hope,” shared a woman, cradling her injured husband in a makeshift shelter. The government, under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s directive, is ramping up relief efforts, yet the challenge is monumental.

Understanding earthquakes: Key insights, impacts, and safety measures

Imagine this: It’s an ordinary morning, and you’re enjoying your coffee or tea when suddenly, the ground beneath you starts to shake. Your cup rattles on the table, pictures on the wall tremble, and a low rumble fills the air. You’re experiencing an earthquake, one of nature’s most formidable forces. This scenario isn’t just a dramatic episode; for many around the globe, it’s a real and often frightening occurrence.

The sheer frequency of earthquakes globally, with over 100,000 felt annually, underscores the need for understanding and preparedness. While predicting earthquakes remains elusive, advancements in early warning systems and structural monitoring are promising strides towards minimising future casualties and destruction.

What causes earthquakes?

At the core of an earthquake is the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates. The earth’s crust is divided into large plates that float on the semi-fluid asthenosphere beneath them. When these plates grind against each other, tension builds up until it’s released as energy, causing the ground to shake. The point on the earth’s surface directly above the origin of the earthquake is known as the epicenter. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), over 500,000 detectable earthquakes occur globally each year, with about 100,000 strong enough to be felt and 100 causing damage.

Historical examples and their effects

Throughout history, several earthquakes have stood out for their destructiveness. The 1556 Shaanxi earthquake in China, for instance, is considered the deadliest, claiming approximately 830,000 lives. More recently, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.0, led to over 200,000 deaths and immense infrastructural damage. These examples highlight the potential for widespread destruction, not just from the quake itself but also from resulting tsunamis, landslides, and aftershocks.

Economic impact and cost

The financial toll of earthquakes can be staggering. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which had a magnitude of 9.0, is estimated to have caused economic losses of up to $235 billion, as reported by the World Bank. The figure includes the costs of rebuilding, healthcare for the injured, and economic losses due to interrupted business activities. Insurance and recovery efforts play a significant role in mitigating these costs, but the economic impact often extends years beyond the event.

Safety measures and preparedness

Earthquakes are a stark reminder of our planet’s dynamic nature, and understanding them is crucial for preparedness and safety.

Preparedness is key in minimizing the impact of earthquakes. Building codes in earthquake-prone areas are designed to withstand seismic activity, a practice adopted in countries like Japan and Chile. Personal preparedness involves having an emergency kit, identifying safe spots in a building (like under sturdy furniture), and knowing evacuation routes. The USGS and other organizations also provide early warning systems, giving precious seconds for people to take cover.

Technological advancements in earthquake prediction and response

While predicting the exact time and location of an earthquake remains challenging, advancements in technology have improved early warning systems. For example, the ShakeAlert system in the United States uses a network of sensors to detect early seismic waves and send alerts. Similarly, structural monitoring systems in buildings can provide real-time data on building integrity, enhancing evacuation and rescue efforts.