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Japan likely facing strongest quake in coming years

By WANG XU | Updated: 2019-02-28 09:15

The Oarai Research & Development Institute of Japan Atomic Energy Agency in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Oct 23, 2018. [Photo/IC]

It is highly likely that Japan will be rattled by a powerful earthquake with a magnitude between 7 and 8 within next 30 years, a Japanese government panel warned in its newly revised seismic activity report.

The maximum probability of a magnitude 7 or 8 earthquake occurring along the Japan Trench off eastern Japan in the coming 30 years is more than 90 percent, Japan's Earthquake Research Committee said on Tuesday while presenting its new assessment of the trench area.

"The possibility of a quake with a magnitude of up to around 8 along the trench remains high," said Naoshi Hirata, a professor at the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute and chairman of the committee. "We want the public to keep in mind that strong quakes and tsunami will hit regions facing the trench again."

"Just because there was a major earthquake (in recent years), we do not want people to assume that there will not be another major earthquake occurring for a while," Hirata added.

However, the committee indicated there is almost zero percent chance of a quake of the magnitude of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake striking. With a magnitude of 9, that quake triggered a huge tsunami that led to nuclear disaster.

More than 16,000 people in eastern Japan were killed following the 2011 earthquake, and the economic losses totaled more than $190 billion, according to Japanese government's estimates. The melted down reactors of Fukushima nuclear power plant are still being cleared to this day.

Unfortunately, the scientists said that there is still a 50 percent chance of a magnitude 7 to 7.5 quake hitting Fukushima within the coming 30 years. The likelihood of such a quake is up 40 percent since the previous report in 2011.

The report also claimed that in the same period there's a 20 percent chance of a 7.9-magnitude quake occurring off Miyagi prefecture, while past research suggested an almost zero percent likelihood there.

Japan lies on the west edge of the Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped basin in the Pacific Ocean where approximately 90 percent of the world's earthquakes can be traced to. Japan experiences earthquakes on a daily basis.

In this year alone, 18 earthquakes above magnitude 3 have shaken the country. The most recent rocked the northern island of Hokkaido last week and had a magnitude of 5.8 at a depth of 30 kilometers.

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