Editorial : Japan’s public and private sectors should review earthquake damage preparations

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A powerful earthquake off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan struck late March 16, scoring a high 6 on Japan’s 7-point seismic intensity scale and causing strong shaking in many parts of the country.

The tremors, which were felt as far away as Kyushu in southwestern Japan, some 1,000 kilometers away, left three dead and at least 200 injured in Tohoku, Kanto and other regions.

The tremor apparently reminded many people of the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Thorough inspections are required to determine if the failure poses safety issues.

In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, a Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train derailed, leaving passengers and crew inside the carriages for about four hours.

The focus of the most recent quake is near where the February 2021 strong tremor occurred, with a maximum intensity of a top 6 on the Japan earthquake scale. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, there could be an earthquake of similar intensity in the next week or so. It is highly recommended that people remain vigilant against such a scenario.

Buildings were destroyed and water supplies cut off in areas badly hit by the latest quake. Local governments are urged to closely inspect the damage and quickly deliver necessary supplies, including drinking water.

The affected areas are feared to be hit by bad weather over the weekend. It is likely that the ground was loosened by the earthquake, making it prone to landslides. People are urged to beware of such damage and stay away from dangerous areas.

Even areas far from the source of the quake have severely disrupted their lifelines. More than 2.2 million homes, mostly in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, suffered power outages. Power was soon restored to most of the affected homes, but the outages restricted the lives of residents.

In the past, fires have often occurred after major earthquakes because damaged cables caught fire after power was restored. In order to prevent such a phenomenon, it is necessary to turn off the circuit breakers during power outages. It is questioned whether the authorities have sufficiently urged people to exercise caution in this regard.

In central Tokyo, traffic lights went out in entertainment districts and residential areas, causing police officers to stand on streets to stop traffic.

There have been a number of cases in Greater Tokyo and elsewhere of people trapped in elevators after they stalled due to the shaking.

As an earthquake-prone country, Japan can experience a large earthquake anytime, anywhere. Some experts say that the Japanese archipelago has entered a seismically active phase since the great Hanshin earthquake of 1995.

It is important to take countermeasures against major earthquakes when they are expected to affect large parts of an area. Both the public and private sectors are urged to reconsider their preparedness to minimize damage in the event of a massive tremor.

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