• Reuters


Houses toppling over, fires blazing out of control, trains going off their rails and murky water rushing through the streets, sweeping cars away.

These are computer-generated images in two videos released by the government this week to prepare people for a major earthquake that could strike Tokyo or Osaka “at any time”.

But the overall impact could leave some viewers paralyzed with fear.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. About 20 percent of all quakes of magnitude 6 or greater occur around Japan.

The videos, commissioned by the Cabinet Office Disaster Management team and posted on the government’s homepage, say there is a 70 percent chance that Tokyo, situated near where three plates collide under the Pacific Ocean, will experience a magnitude 7 quake in the next 30 years.

“We need to be aware of disaster risks,” the video says. “Before it is too late, we need to be prepared and take action as individuals and as a society.”

If Tokyo were hit by a magnitude-7.3 quake, an estimated 23,000 people would die and more than 7 million would be driven into emergency shelters, one of the videos says.

Such an incident would cause economic damage of ¥95 trillion, or roughly the equivalent of the national budget.

A second video simulates a magnitude-9 quake off Japan’s western and central coast, similar in power to the 2011 quake that unleashed a tsunami on northeastern Japan.

This potential quake in the Nankai region could kill more than 323,000 people in an area from Nagoya to Osaka and on the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu — about two-thirds of them in a tsunami triggered by the quake, the video said.

Practical suggestions ranged from storing at least three days’ worth of extra food supplies to advising companies to care for employees at work, so as to free roads from congestion that could hinder emergency vehicles.

The death toll could also be reduced if more homes and buildings were brought in line with Japan’s strict construction standards, one of the videos added.

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