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Japan Earthquake: Tremor in Shikoku Raises Nankai Trough Fears
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Japan Earthquake: Tremor in Shikoku Raises Nankai Trough Fears

Apr 18, 2024

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of Shikoku, Japan, on Wednesday night, April 17th, 2024. While there were no major injuries or widespread damage reported, the tremor served as a stark reminder of the ever-present threat of seismic activity in the region. This article by Local Khabar explores the details of the earthquake, its impact, and the anxieties it has triggered regarding the possibility of a much larger Nankai Trough earthquake.

Japan Earthquake

Earthquake Strikes Off Shikoku Coast

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the earthquake struck at approximately 11:14 pm local time on Wednesday. The epicenter was located in the Bungo Channel, a strait separating the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, at a depth of 39 kilometers. The quake registered a weak 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, which is the third-highest level. This intensity was primarily felt in the Ehime Prefecture town of Ainan and the Kochi Prefecture city of Sukumo.

Limited Damage and Injuries Reported

Fortunately, initial reports indicate the earthquake caused minimal damage. While some minor injuries were reported, primarily consisting of people who fell or were struck by falling objects, there were no fatalities. Authorities reported scattered instances of damage, including broken water pipes, fallen streetlights, and a single landslide on a national roadway. Thankfully, no fires broke out following the quake.

One of the primary concerns following the earthquake was the possibility of a connection to the Nankai Trough earthquake, a much larger seismic event anticipated to occur every 100-150 years. The last major Nankai Trough earthquake struck the region 70 years ago.

The Nankai Trough is a geological zone of immense tension where the Philippine Sea Plate subducts beneath the Eurasian Plate. This subduction process creates a buildup of pressure, which eventually releases in the form of powerful earthquakes and potentially devastating tsunamis.

Satoshi Harada, head of the JMA’s earthquake and tsunami monitoring division, emphasized at a press conference that the recent 6.6 magnitude quake occurred within a fault line within the plate itself, situated deeper than the boundary between the plates. He further explained that while the magnitude falls below the 6.8 threshold that would trigger a formal investigation into a Nankai Trough connection, the JMA would continue close monitoring and convene expert panels if necessary.

Heightened Seismic Activity and Potential Aftershocks

Mr. Harada noted a rise in seismic activity following the initial earthquake. The JMA has advised residents in the affected areas to remain cautious of potential aftershocks and heavy rainfall over the next week. This increased caution stems from the heightened risk of landslides and building collapses in areas experiencing strong tremors.

Local Reactions and Anxieties

The earthquake in Japan sent shockwaves through the local communities. Residents unaccustomed to such powerful tremors described the experience as frightening. Convenience stores reported fallen merchandise, while restaurants experienced plates and glasses crashing from shelves.

For some, the earthquake brought back unsettling memories of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. This highlights the very real psychological impact that earthquakes can have on individuals and communities.

Looking Forward: Preparedness and Resilience

While the recent earthquake caused minimal damage, it serves as a crucial reminder of Japan’s vulnerability to seismic activity. The ongoing threat of the Nankai Trough earthquake necessitates continued preparedness efforts at both individual and community levels.

Japan has a well-established disaster preparedness infrastructure, including robust building codes and regular public drills. However, ongoing efforts to strengthen infrastructure, educate residents on emergency protocols, and maintain essential supplies are crucial.

Living on Shaky Ground

Earthquakes are an undeniable reality for Japan. The recent tremor off the coast of Shikoku, while not catastrophic, serves as a wake-up call. By acknowledging the inherent risks, prioritizing preparedness, and fostering community resilience, Japan can navigate these seismic challenges and ensure the safety of its citizens.

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