A large earthquake in the Tokai region of central Japan could claim up to 10,000 lives and cause economic losses of 37 trillion yen, according to a government disaster prevention panel.
The predicted death toll would result from a quake of magnitude 8 occurring early on a winter’s morning, the Central Disaster Management Council said in a report. The toll would exceed the more than 6,000 lives lost due to the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which devastated the Kobe area in January 1995.
A Tokai quake centered on central or western Shizuoka Prefecture or Suruga Bay would force the evacuation of some 2 million people and disrupt the water, electricity and other infrastructure of 5 million others, the panel said.
A magnitude 8 quake could register 7 on the 7-point Japanese intensity scale in some areas of Shizuoka close to the seismic center, and 6 in most other areas of the prefecture as well as Aichi and Yamanashi prefectures, it said.
A massive Tokai quake could also trigger tsunami of up to 10 meters striking coastal regions stretching from the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture to Mie and Wakayama prefectures on the Kii Peninsula, it said.
The worst damage estimate is predicated in the event the quake occurs at around 5 a.m. in winter, with up to 7,000 deaths from the collapse of structures, 600 from fires, 700 from landslides and up to 2,200 from tsunami.
The panel made a widely varying estimate on tsunami casualties, however, ranging from 400 to 2,200 depending on the evacuation-preparedness of the areas affected.
However, the figure of 10,000 deaths does not include those caused by railway accidents or falling objects, the panel said, noting that the casualty count would thus be higher in an actual quake.
Under the worst-case scenario, Shizuoka would experience the most deaths, between 7,400 and 8,800, while Aichi and Mie prefectures would each see 500 deaths, Yamanashi 200, Nagano 100 and between 10 and 20 in Wakayama and Kanagawa prefectures, it said.
But the panel also said warnings based on quake predictions would help reduce the death toll to between 2,000 and 2,400 and the economic fallout to 31 trillion yen.
The Tokai region, on the boundary of tectonic plates, has experienced a massive quake every 100 to 150 years, the last one being in 1854, with a magnitude of 8.4.
Eight prefectures, from the Tokyo area to Mie, and 263 municipalities have been required to take intensive measures to prevent earthquake disasters.
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