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NIPPONIA No.33 June 15, 2005

Special Feature*
Living with Earthquakes in Japan
On December 26, 2004, the sea floor off the Indonesian island of Sumatra deformed abruptly, triggering a giant tsunami that hit countries around the Indian Ocean. Seismic wave amplitude was determined to be magnitude 9.3, and the number of people killed and missing is now estimated at about 310,000 (March 31, 2005 figure). The disaster shocked the entire world and showed the awesome power of a tsunami. Another major undersea earthquake occurred off Sumatra three months later, on March 29, 2005, bringing destruction once more. All over the world, new ways to protect lives and property from disaster are being developed.
Japan has always been prone to earthquakes. In just the past decade there have been three major quakes which caused considerable damage—in 1995 (Kobe region), 2004 (central Niigata Prefecture) and 2005 (offshore western Fukuoka Prefecture). After each disaster the Japanese pick themselves up, learn from experience and find ways to reduce the potential for destruction the next time. Repeated disasters and the ongoing development of new countermeasures have led to the development of anti-disaster technologies and systems that can hopefully be applied worldwide. This issue of Nipponia looks at earthquakes and tsunamis, and the latest technologies Japan is using to fight them.
Written by Torikai Shin-ichi

The Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake and Kobe today

When: 5:46 a.m., January 17, 1995. Magnitude: 7. In the city of Kobe and other parts of southern Hyogo Prefecture, more than 5,500 people were killed, 440,000 households suffered serious damage, and 210,000 houses collapsed or were otherwise wiped off the map. The quake knocked over about 500 meters of the Hanshin Expressway Kobe Connector. Scenes like this one were shown worldwide in the media, illustrating the fury nature can unleash.

Left : Same section of the Hanshin Expressway Kobe Connector, rebuilt today.
Top right : Buildings and arcades near Sannomiya Station in central Kobe collapsed, blocking streets.
Bottom right : The same area today. A decade since the earthquake, life is back to normal.
(Photo credits: The city of Kobe, The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ogawa Hiroyuki)


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