Experts have once again raised an alarm and warned governments to prepare for mega earthquakes in major population centers that could cause major devastation and loss of millions of lives worldwide.
The latest warnings come after the recent series of earthquakes in the Pacific Ring of Fire, with Japan and the Latin American country of Ecuador suffering major events. On April 16, 2016, the southern region of Japan suffered a double-quake, in which about 48 people died, while Ecuador suffered a magnitude-7.8 quake, in which about 500 people died.
Experts have also warned that one of the cities facing the highest risk of a devastating earthquake is Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, with a population of more than 13 million people.
And in response to warnings from experts, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has released a 300-page publication warning residents of the metropolis of a 70 percent chance of major earthquake hitting the Greater Tokyo area in the next three decades.
According to recent official estimates, a magnitude-7.0 quake hitting Greater Tokyo, described as a “highly imminent scenario,” could cause the death of 23,000 people and economic damage of about 95 trillion yen ($856 billion).
There is also a 70 percent chance of an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 or 9.0 in the southwest of Japan near the Nankai trough.
The new official publication gives detailed information on earthquake preparedness and includes manga comic-style illustrations of a disaster that strikes at 4:35 p.m. on “Tokyo X Day.”
The illustrations depict scenes of devastation, with derailed trains, collapsed bridges, and cars plunging into water.
Japan lies in a high risk area of the Pacific Ring of Fire with a major subduction zone near Tokyo.
Authorities in Tokyo have been preparing for the “Big One” for years, but there has been renewed urgency following recent uptick in seismic activity along the Pacific Ring of Fire, according to a Bloomberg report.
The devastating impact of two new earthquakes in the Kumamoto prefecture of southern Japan has also awakened the authorities to the poor state of preparedness for a major quake. Kumamoto experienced a magnitude-6.5 earthquake, followed about 28 hours later by a magnitude-7.3 quake.
Ongoing preparations for the anticipated “Big One” have involved reinforcing houses to reduce damage and making adjustments to reduce the risk of fire outbreak in the event of a major shake.
Authorities have also been making efforts to reduce the population density in areas at highest risk. Plans are also being made to ensure early evacuation of people to tsunami-proof buildings.
Satoshi Fujii, an adviser in the ongoing preparedness project at the Kyoto University, said, “It’s a race between us and the earthquake. And if we don’t win it we won’t be able to protect the capital. Once and for all, we have to take action on the basis this thing is coming.”
According to Gavin Hayes, geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, it is only a matter of time before the subduction zone near Tokyo undergoes a major movement that triggers a powerful quake.
“Eventually that subduction zone south of the Tohoku earthquake will probably generate a very large earthquake.”
Experts have also raised an alarm about the risk of major earthquakes in the U.S. West Coast. According to Roger Bilham, professor of geological sciences and geophysics at the University of Colorado, recent activity along the Pacific Ring of Fire raises concern about imminent mega earthquakes of magnitude-8.0 and above that could cause disaster of “historic proportions.”
“Current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude,” he said.
According to the geologist, a single magnitude-8.0 earthquake in a major population center in the U.S. could lead to loss of millions of lives.
Fears have also been expressed about an imminent eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, which experts say experienced a major eruption 640,000 years ago, followed by minor eruptions and lava flows 150,000 and 70,000 years ago, respectively.
Experts warn that major eruptions of Yellowstone comparable to the last super-eruption 640,000 years ago could be up to 2,000 times as powerful as the Mount St. Helens’ 1980 eruption. A major eruption of Yellowstone could devastate large swathes of the U.S. northwest and render about two-thirds of the country uninhabitable.
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