Japan rides out earthquake fine

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 at 10:08AM :

I heard on BBC world news last night that faulty architecture of the government-subsidized housing is responsible the huge numbers of dead from the Algerian earthquake. Other properties, next door to the subsidized housing, weren't nearly as badly damaged by the quake. & Japanese architecture specifically incorporates designs that make buildings as earthquake resistant as possible.... & the results are in: nobody died during this last earthquake in Japan....
Japan spared earthquake devastation seen in Algeria through luck, preparation


SENDAI, Japan, May 27 The two earthquakes struck within days of each other, unleashing roughly the same devastating power. The killer quake in Algeria left thousands dead. It's counterpart in Japan left hardly a scratch.

Monday's quake in northern Japan was estimated at a potentially disastrous magnitude 7, but it left an aftermath of only minor injuries and cracked plaster, underscoring how readiness and good luck helped Japan temper the carnage seen in other quake-prone lands.

Experts warned, however, that Japan notoriously susceptible to quakes and whose crowded capital is well overdue for the ''Big One'' may not be so lucky next time.

Minor temblors continued to shake northeastern Japan on Tuesday, more than 12 hours after the initial earthquake set off landslides, caused a blackout and left more than 100 people injured.

It was the strongest quake to hit Japan in more than two years and shook buildings in the capital, Tokyo, hundreds of miles away from the epicenter. This city of nearly 1 million, about 190 miles northeast of Tokyo, was the largest urban center in the quake area.

Though there was still a fear of landslides and traffic remained snarled, the impact of the quake was surprisingly small. Life in this city was already back to normal.

''I never experienced a bigger earthquake in my life. It was scary, we were lucky there was no damage,'' said Noriko Fujimoto, 25, back at work in a coffee shop.

Experts said the depth of the epicenter was key.

''The biggest reason it didn't cause so much damage was because it occurred at a very deep spot, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) underground,'' said Yoshimitsu Okada, a seismologist at the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention.

''If it had been shallower,'' he said, ''it could have been a major disaster.''

A magnitude 7 quake can cause major damage over a widespread area. More than 6,000 people were killed in the western city of Kobe when a magnitude-7.2 quake struck in 1995.

The devastating earthquake that rocked northern Algeria last week, killing at least 2,047 people, was actually weaker than the one that hit here. The Algeria quake was estimated at a magnitude 6.8, but it was just six miles underground.

Japan is one of the world's most seismically vulnerable countries and has accordingly adopted tough building standards and mapped out readiness procedures.

On Monday, police, fire departments and local governments immediately established emergency disaster headquarters, and the few fires that broke out after the quake were quickly extinguished.

Water and electricity outages were generally fixed within a few hours.

Still, the quake has renewed concerns about the future.

Seismologists believe Tokyo, which was devastated by a quake in 1923, is due for another one at any time.

''We should not consider earthquakes in remote areas someone else's trouble, but use them as a good opportunity to improve disaster measures,'' the Yomiuri, Japan's largest-selling newspaper, warned in an editorial Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a 6.4 earthquake rocked remote Morotai island in northeastern Indonesia on Tuesday, killing a 3-year-old boy and damaging more than 100 homes, officials said. Morotai is 1,550 miles northeast of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.

In the southern Philippines, an undersea earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 was recorded Tuesday. But there were no reports of damage, the seismological institute reported.

2003 Associated Press.

-- Sadie
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