Being located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan has long been a somewhat regular victim of three sorts of major natural disasters: volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. No grimmer reminder of this reality can be found outside of the horrific 2011 Tohoku earthquake, which also triggered a massive tsunami that ravaged a great portion of Japan’s eastern coast. It was the most powerful quake that was ever recorded in the history of that country. Now, the dangerous natural legacy of Japan makes itself known again this week, with a new earthquake that struck the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido.
The Japan Times reports that this earthquake, which measured 6.7 in magnitude according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), shook Hokkaido at 3:08 AM local time, early on the morning of Thursday, September 6. Among the most affected was the town of Atsuma, which was struck by a landslide from a nearby long ridge that was jarred loose by the tremors. About 3 million Hokkaido residences were left without power in the wake of the event; train services and flights were cancelled on account of potential damages to railways and runways. Two persons were reported killed, with over 100 wounded and 32 listed as missing.
According to the US Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake was located at 68 kilometers west of the prefectural capital of Sapporo, and about 40 kilometers deep in the ground. Certain buildings in Hokkaido were also collapsed, trapping people inside. The JMA adds that the initial tremor was later followed by several aftershocks. According to a statement by agency spokesperson Toshiyuki Matsumori, more aftershocks are expected of varying magnitudes; and Hokkaido residents are advised to take appropriate precautionary measures.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on a morning press briefing that a command center has been set up by the national government for coordinating relief and rescue, emphasizing that their first priority is saving lives. To that end, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) plans to send some 25,000 personnel to Hokkaido at the request of its governor to aid in the rescue efforts.
Another issue of concern is Hokkaido’s Tomari Nuclear Power Station. Though it has ceased operations following the Fukushima plant disaster from the Tohoku quake and tsunami, its reactor is still active and an environmental risk if damaged. Fortunately, its operators the Hokkaido Electric Power Co. reports that its cooling rods are working under emergency power, and that no radiation leakage has been detected so far.
New Chitose Airport got off with a partially collapsed terminal ceiling and power loss, necessitating a closure to flight operations for at least the day.
Image courtesy of Bloomberg