A massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan on Friday (today), unleashing a monster 10-metre high tsunami that sent ships crashing into the shore and carried cars through the streets of coastal towns. Many injuries were reported from Pacific coastal areas of the main Honshu island and the capital Tokyo, police said, while TV footage showed widespread flooding in the area.
The quake, which hit at 14:46 pm (0546 GMT) and lasted about two minutes, strongly rattled buildings in greater Tokyo, the world’s largest urban area and home to some 30 million people. The first quake struck just under 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of Tokyo, the US Geological Survey said. It was followed by several aftershocks, one as strong as 7.1.
The mega-city of Tokyo sits on the intersection of three continental plates — the Eurasian, Pacific and Philippine Sea plates — which are slowly grinding against each other, building up enormous seismic pressure.
The government’s Earthquake Research Committee has warned of a 70 per cent chance that a great, magnitude-eight quake will strike within the next 30 years in the Kanto plains, home to Tokyo’s vast urban sprawl. The last time a “Big One” hit Tokyo was in 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake claimed more than 140,000 lives, many of them in fires. In 1855, the Ansei Edo quake also devastated the city. In 1995, the Kobe earthquake killed more then 6,400 people.
When I started learning Japanese a few years ago, I clearly remember my Japanese teacher mentioning about this huge earthquake that was predicted to hit Japan some time during this couple of decades. I believe that he was talking about the Tokai Earthquake, since that seems to have happened about once every 110 years. But in any case, it left me thinking about whether an earthquake would be happening in Japan when I was there last June – thankfully nothing happened though.
I was shocked to read about the quake in Japan today. I had the expectation that one was going to happen some time, but today’s event honestly caught me by surprise. Seeing the pictures being posted online, the articles being posted on news sites and so on… it pains me to see the amount of destruction the quake has caused, and the amount of lives it has claimed. I’m glad to know that most of the people I follow on Twitter or their blogs are safe, but reading their tweets on what was happening in real time – where they were when the quake occurred, what was happening and how they felt – made me understand that sort of fear, even if just a little. I’m still waiting to see updates from some people, and I really hope that they’re safe!
For those of us living in Singapore, or other areas which do not experience many natural disasters – we should really be thankful of what we have. We’re really fortunate to be in a place where we’re safe from these things. Gowing up in a place like this, I think it’s really easy to take what we have for granted. But even though we may not experience such events ourselves, and there’s really nothing we can do to prevent these natrual disasters from happening, I hope that we will be able to empathise with the people who have to go through these, and not just think that it doesn’t concern us. To be honest, I don’t like reading news about disasters because it really pains me, but I reckon that feeling sad is better than not feeling anything for those people at all.
My heart goes out to all the people who have lost their belongings, or even worse, their loves ones because of the quake. And for the people in Japan whom I’ve yet to hear from, please, please be safe…