Earthquakes and Landslides: Rescuers are Still Searching for Survivors in Japan

This year has been especially difficult for Japan as it suffered through several massive earthquakes, typhoons, and a record-breaking heatwave

Two rescuers are standing within the perimeter of a damaged road section
Rescuers Searching for Survivors in Japan

A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 at 37 km depth that struck Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido on September 6 took at least 37 lives. At least 401 people were injured and 2 people are still missing. Rescuers keep on searching for survivors, but multiple landslides that the earthquake triggered are making it more and more difficult to search through all the timber, rocks and soil that crumbled down from the hills and mountains. Earthquakes are common in Japan but this was a big one.

More than 40000 people, including 22000 soldiers from the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), were deployed to help with rescue operations and they are still digging through tons of debris and earth that collapsed from the mountains. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that saving lives was the top priority and that more troops would be deployed if necessary.

The Earthquake’s Aftermath

The Earthquake’s Aftermath

The quake’s epicenter was east of the city of Tomakomai, but it greatly paralyzed the area of about 68 km (42 miles) south-east of the island’s prefectural capital of Sapporo as well, the city with a population of 1.9 million.

The earthquake hit at 3:08 am local time, jolting the city’s residents out of their beds, forcing them out of their homes in the middle of the night, and triggering landslides that buried their homes, farm buildings, and many other facilities. Many of the roads were also left sunken or crumbled.

Multiple landslides were also triggered in Atsuma and neighboring Abira, two closely located towns in the southern part of the island, collapsing many houses and barns. Atsuma is a small town with only 40 residents, all of whom lost their homes to the landslides when entire hillsides collapsed.

The earthquake lasted almost a minute, leaving nearly 3 million households without power, as reported by the Hokkaido Electric Power Company. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reported that almost half of those households had their power restored after one day.

The power outage was caused by the emergency shutdown of the thermal power plant on the island of Hokkaido that is responsible for supplying half of the households with electricity.

The Hokkaido Electric Power Company reported that all the fossil fuel-fired power plants were shut down after the earthquake. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said that the only nuclear power plant on the island, the Tomari Nuclear Power Station, was switched to a backup generator, which could cool its fuel rods safely for one week. There were no irregularities.

The disaster also left homes without water and phone connection, and paralyzed airports and train services, canceling more than 200 flights and halting all the trains, including bullet trains.

About 13000 fled to evacuation centers that were set up across the island after the earthquake. There were 768 evacuation centers and the last of them shut down on September 21.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said that the epicenter of the earthquake was 37 km deep and did not pose any tsunami risks. It also reported that the initial earthquake was followed by a series of aftershocks, one of which was of 5.4 magnitudes.

The disaster also left homes without water and phone connection, and paralyzed airports and train services, canceling more than 200 flights and halting all the trains, including bullet trains.

The Summer of Chaos in Japan

The Summer of Chaos in Japan

Japan suffered from a series of natural disasters this summer. Apart from this horrific earthquake, the country has been hit by a string of calamities since June this year. While natural disasters such as earthquakes are not very unusual for the country, the past summer has been a particularly deadly one with all the devastating floods, record-breaking heats, and typhoons.

The latest of them was a powerful typhoon Jebi, which was the strongest storm to hit the mainland of Japan in 25 years. The Category 2 Typhoon Jebi hit the Kansai area on September 4, killing 11 people and triggering a series of floods in western Japan.

The Typhoon was equivalent to a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane, sustaining winds of 140 km/h (87 mph) and gusts of 165 km/h (102 mph) before making landfall.

The country was still recovering from the Typhoon Jebi’s trail of destruction on the country’s western coastline when the Hokkaido earthquake hit only two days later.

July 2018 was not any calmer, as there was heavy rain in Western Japan that led to devastating floods and landslides that took 221 lives. The cities that were hit the hardest were Hiroshima and Kurashiki.

Apart from the floods, there was an extended heat wave in July that claimed at least 116 lives. During the heat wave, the highest ever temperature in Japan was recorded – the temperature of 41.1°C on July 23 in Kumagaya, a city near Tokyo.

There was another earthquake in Japan this summer. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Osaka on June 18, claiming the lives of 5 people and leaving more than 400 injured.

Japan and the Ring of Fire

All these terrible earthquake disasters that took so many lives and left more injured is, unfortunately, not an unusual occurrence for Japan. The country is located in the Ring of Fire in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, where there are a lot of volcanoes and oceanic trenches, which is why it falls victim to so many earthquakes. Japan accounts for nearly 20% of earthquakes around the world which have a magnitude of 6 or higher.

September 1 marked the 95th anniversary of the Great Kantō earthquake that hit the Kantō Plain on the Japanese main island of Honshu back in 1923. With a magnitude of 7.9, it took more than 140000 lives in the area of Tokyo.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude hit Japan’s northern city of Sendai, specifically the ocean off the coast of the city. The quake triggered numerous massive tsunamis and took nearly 20000 lives. It was recorded as the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan.

According to the latest earthquake and seismic intensity information in Japan, there have been 503 earthquakes in the past 365 days, 75 of which were in the past 30 days. Of all those, there have been 15 earthquakes in Japan in the past week, one of which had a magnitude of 5.3 and occurred in Nago, Okinawa.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Despite the devastating earthquakes that keep on stopping Japan in its track and damaging it considerably, the country, nevertheless, keeps on rebuilding itself again and again.

What do you think?

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