Tokyo Tough Enough For Big Quake - Minister
If and when the next major earthquake hits Tokyo, Japan’s post March 11-Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano is convinced the capital, and other urban hubs around the country, are in good shape to withstand the force.
Tatsuo Hirano, Japan’s minister of reconstruction and disaster management, in September.
“Please rest assured, and don’t flee Tokyo,” said Mr. Hirano, who is also the country’s minister of state for disaster management, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo on Thursday.
The reason for his apparent confidence? The strength of Tokyo’s buildings and transportation systems like elevated roadways and tracks.
“I can prove this (safety) by pointing to the fact that despite the strong lateral movements triggered by the March 11 earthquake, the shinkansen (bullet train) recovered very quickly,” he said. “I think this is proof how far our earthquake resistance technology has advanced.”
According to scientists, Tokyo’s ability to resist could be tested in the not too distant future. The government’s Earthquake Research Promotion agency said earlier this month that there is an 88% chance a magnitude-8.0 earthquake will shake the Tokai region, which lays to the south of Tokyo, sometime in the next 30 years, slightly up from its previous assessment of an 87% chance.
Numerous other predictions have suggested a strong quake is likely to hit directly under Tokyo’s crowded streets or a nearby region to varying degrees and timeframes.
The data is sufficient, Mr. Hirano says, to “convince us there is a high probability that a large earthquake will occur in the Kanto region – specifically an earthquake occurring underneath a major city or in the southeast ocean.”
For this reason central government and the Tokyo city administration have joined forces to deliberate how to respond when certain lifelines are down. Indeed, although Tokyo’s buildings mostly escaped serious physical damage on March 11 and residents sustained few injuries, stalled trains services stranded thousands of commuters overnight and overloaded mobile phone networks prevented many from reaching loved ones in the immediate hours after the earthquake.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced on Monday it will begin conducting experiments this month and again in February to determine how best to deal with the droves of commuters passing through Tokyo station, a main travel portal, in the event a big earthquake strikes under the city of 13 million, approximately 10% of Japan’s population.
The capital also holds annual disaster drills and every five years assesses the potential damage an earthquake may wreak. The last study in 2006 estimated a 7.3-magnitude quake in northern Tokyo Bay would kill about 5,600 people and injure 159,100.