Earthquake News

Japan's Niigata Prefecture estimates that up to 8,000 people could die in a major earthquake on what is called the "Niigata fault zone."

Japan's Niigata Prefecture estimates that up to 8,000 people could die in a major earthquake on what is called the "Niigata fault zone."

The Niigata Prefectural Government conducted the "earthquake damage estimate survey" for the first time in about 20 years, revealing that a tremor generated in the central Japan region of Nagaoka Plain could potentially kill as many as 8,000 people. It hopes that the study will help formulate a disaster response plan for the region and raise disaster prevention awareness among local citizens.

The quake was centered near Kashiwazaki, which was hit by a 6.8-magnitude temblor in 2007 that killed 11 people and triggered the world's worst nuclear plant accident since Chernobyl.

Those with special needs and the elderly could be particularly affected by such a disaster, and 16 evacuation points in front of schools and hospitals were chosen as shelters. There are 25 such points on the northwestern side of the epicenter where damage is expected to be particularly severe.

A study published recently is the result of research carried out by Satoru Ohtsuka, Professor of Ground Engineering and Natural Disaster Science at Nagaoka University of Technology in Niigata Prefecture.

The Niigata Prefecture government has designated as seismic disaster sites nine areas of the prefecture, in which there are six inland and three offshore fault zones. They calculated the magnitude of each fault's expected activity, taking into account the movement of all faults in the zone. It was then assumed that the quakes took place at three times during summer noon, winter 6 p.m., and winter late at night, with two weather patterns -- strong winds or average wind speed -- occurring. They had predicted that six damage scenarios for each fault zone.

According to the researchers, the fault zone is 83 kilometers long and stretches from off the coast of Miigata's Nishikan Ward and runs the cities of Tsubame, Sanjo, Nagaoka and to the city of Ojiya.

If a magnitude-7.5 earthquake occurs during strong winds late in the winter, with all four blocks in the fault zone moving, researchers estimate that the quake could kill as many as 7,920 people, injure 56,922, destroy 171,244 buildings and force 471,386 people to evacuate. Total damage would be about $190.7 billion.

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