A powerful earthquake measuring 8.9 Rs hit Japan on Friday 80 miles off the coast of Sendai, generating a 10m-high tsunami that swept across the region causing mass flooding and sparking dangerous fires, with tremors felt as far as Tokyo. It is estimated that 4million people are currently without power and the Japanese army has been deployed to the worst hit areas.
Thought to be the fifth most powerful earthquake for a century, the natural disaster has led to tsunami warnings all around the Pacific Rim. Hawaii is currently on high alert as the first waves have begun to sweep through the island chain, swamping beaches and stopping near tourist resorts. Additional, more powerful waves are expected in the next few hours.
At the time of going to press, mortality figures in Japan had reached 200-300, with many thought to have been swept to their deaths by a 30ft muddied tidal wave that cascaded many miles inland. 88,000 individuals are currently missing. Warnings are still being heard of additional aftershocks and tsunamis in Japan, with the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre alerting Australia, New Zealand, the West Coast of America and Mexico to the potential threat.
One of the world’s most seismically active regions, Japan has swiftly developed an effective response format to its constant earthquake threat. Children are educated from a young age on safe quake practices such as ducking under desks whilst adults are regularly directed to their closest evacuation point in case of emergency.
In 1995, the Japanese city of Kobe suffered at the hands of a 20-second, 7.3Rs earthquake – the largest the country had seen since 1923. Major infrastructure routes were destroyed and over 200,000 buildings irreparably damaged, with 43,000 people injured and 6,430 confirmed dead.
Local governments estimated that costs to repair the city’s basic infrastructure would rise to $150bn; however this did not take into account repair work to buildings not owned by the state therefore the Kobe earthquake is widely recognised as the most economically costly quake in recorded history.
Following the devastation amassed by the Kobe earthquake of 1995, Japan tightened building regulations with certain local governments offering citizens free structural reviews of their properties. All high-rise structures in Japan must conform to these codes, with designs ensuring that the buildings sway rather than shake in the face of a powerful quake.