The latest long-term forecast by the government’s Earthquake Research Committee says there is a high probability that a killer earthquake on a scale of magnitude 7 to 8 will occur within the next 30 years along the Japan Trench off the Pacific coast of northeastern Honshu — with the chance of such a quake taking place in certain areas along the trench as high as 90 percent. The committee warned people against assuming there won’t be a big quake anytime soon after the magnitude 9 Great East Japan Earthquake hit off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture eight years ago, causing a tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people along the Tohoku coast.
Indeed, these forecasts only show long-term estimates based on past patterns of big earthquakes hitting certain areas at certain intervals. Despite the latest seismology data, much remains unknown. It is impossible to predict when and where an earthquake, or of what intensity, will occur. We are reminded of that whenever big temblors hit our quake-prone country, including the ones that hit Osaka Prefecture and Hokkaido last year as well as the Kumamoto earthquakes in 2016.