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A long-feared massive earthquake hitting the Tokai region in central Japan could result in the deaths of 8,100 people, destruction of 230,000 houses and buildings and daily economic losses of 345.1 billion yen, a government council said Thursday.

It is the first time the Central Disaster Management Council has released a comprehensive estimate of the damage from the so-called Big One.

The long-feared central Honshu earthquake, possibly with a magnitude of 8, is anticipated to strike the region southwest of Tokyo when the Philippine Sea plate buckles due to a pressure buildup caused by the Eurasian plate slipping beneath it.

According to the council’s estimate, the number of casualties and damage to buildings could far surpass those in the January 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which killed more than 6,000 people in Kobe and neighboring cities in the Kansai region.

However, such damage could be contained to one-quarter of the worst-case estimate if advance warning is issued and local residents are properly evacuated, the council said.

The prime minister is responsible for issuing the warning to the public, at which point traffic would be drastically restricted and financial institutions and department stores would have to close down in high-risk areas.

Eight prefectures would be placed under high alert — Tokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi and Mie.

In the worst-case scenario, which assumes that the quake hits at 5 a.m. when most popple would likely be asleep at home, the council estimates that up to 8,100 people could be killed, and 194,000 wooden structures and 37,000 other buildings totally destroyed.

If the quake were to hit at noon, the casualty estimate is roughly halved to 4,100 because more people would be outdoors or working in safer office buildings, the council said. The death toll could reach 4,000 if the quake were to hit at 6 p.m.

The government council’s estimate does not include possible deaths from secondary damage, such as tsunami, fires or landslides.

Meanwhile, the council also said that in the event the government issued a warning that a massive earthquake may strike the Tokai region, resulting in many services shutting down, the economic losses could reach 345.1 billion yen per day.

Losses, however, could be reduced to 170 billion yen per day depending on various factors, including the resumption of economic activity when the warning is lifted, council sources said.

The eight prefectures to be put on alert would see total losses of up to 200.2 billion yen per day for all industries, except for infrastructure-related sectors like gas and water.

But this figure could fall to 87.5 billion yen per day if manufacturing and construction industries resumed operations after the warning was lifted, the sources said.

In addition, areas not covered by intense monitoring measures in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures would also be expected to incur 8.7 billion yen in losses, because 20 percent of the commercial and transport sectors would probably cease operations, the sources said.

Transport services would also be expected to take a financial hit.

If the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and the Tomei and Chuo expressways were shut down and people canceled travel plans, this would cause an estimated 15.6 billion yen in losses.

The council calculated the figures based on the premise that the warning is issued on a weekday, which would have greater economic impact than on a weekend, and lasts three days.

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