Japan could be nearly destroyed by a volcanic eruption over the next century that would put nearly all of its population of 127 million people at risk, a new study says.
“It is not an overstatement to say that a colossal volcanic eruption would leave Japan extinct as a country,” Kobe University earth sciences professor Yoshiyuki Tatsumi and associate professor Keiko Suzuki said in the study, released publicly on Wednesday.
The experts said they analyzed the scale and frequency of volcanic eruptions throughout the archipelago over the past 120,000 years and calculated that the odds of a devastating eruption at about 1 percent over the next 100 years.
The chance of a major temblor striking Kobe within 30 years was estimated at about 1 percent just a day before a 7.2-magnitude quake struck the port city in 1995, killing 6,400 people and injuring nearly 4,400 others, the study noted.
“Therefore, it would be no surprise if such a colossal eruption occurs at any moment,” it added.
The Kobe University researchers said their study is critical because Japan is home to about 7 percent of the volcanoes that have erupted over the past 10,000 years.
A disaster on Kyushu, which has been struck by seven massive eruptions over the past 120,000 years, would see an area with 7 million people buried by flows of lava and molten rock in just two hours, they said.
Volcanic ash would also be carried by westerly winds toward the main island of Honshu, making nearly the entire country “unlivable” as it strangled infrastructure, including key transport systems, they said.
It would be “hopeless” trying to save about 120 million living in major cities and towns across Honshu, the study said.
The study called for new technology to more accurately grasp the state of the “magma reservoirs” that are spread across the Earth’s crust in layers a few kilometers deep.