A powerful earthquake has hit the Japanese coastal city of Osaka and neighbouring areas. It has resulted in the deaths of at least three people and has left more than 200 injured. The earthquake, however, did not trigger a tsunami.
Earthquakes are not rare in this region, given Japan's location on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire. The nation experiences about 100,000 tremors every year; roughly 1,500 are strong enough to be detected by residents without the need for machinery.
Japan is frequently hit by earthquakes. It sits on four plates - the Pacific plate and the Philippine plate to the east; and to the west, the North America plate and the Eurasian plate. In July 1993, a magnitude-7.8 temblor hit Hokkaido’s Okushiri Island, causing a tsunami that wiped out its fishing village. The death toll reached 201.
The most devastating earthquake in recent history was the magnitude-7.2 quake that struck the Hanshin region around Kobe in 1995. The Great Hanshin Earthquake resulted in the loss of 6,434 lives and left 43,792 people injured. About 104,000 houses and buildings were completely destroyed.
In 2011, Japan was hit by one of the most powerful earthquakes in history. After that 9.0 magnitude quake, all 11 of the nearby reactors shut off, but the resultant tsunami waves knocked out backup power and prevented three of the oldest units—located at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant—from being able to cool off.
In October 2017, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan Trench, on the coast of Fukushima in Japan. This caused concerns regarding the defunct Fukushima nuclear plant and the damage it could have caused.
The coastal city of Osaka was hit by a powerful earthquake during morning rush hour on June 18th, 2018. It resulted in the deaths of three people including a 9-year-old girl.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake was of 5.3 magnitude. However, the Japan Meteorology Agency put the magnitude at 5.9 and JMA Seismic Intensity at 5.3. The local media have been able to identify the victims as 9-year-old Rina Miyake, 80-year-old Minoru Yasui and 85-year-old Motochika Goto. Miyake and Yasui died when they were hit by collapsing walls after the earthquake. Goto was crushed by a falling bookcase at his home.
Officials have meanwhile warned of possible strong aftershocks. “There are fears that the risk of house collapses and landslides has increased in the areas shaken strongly,” said Toshiyuki Matsumori of the country’s meteorological agency. “Please make sure that you are fully on alert about seismic activities and information on rainfall and stay clear of dangerous places.”
Some experts have stated that the region could expect even more catastrophic earthquakes in the near future. This is because the present earthquake could have involved a fault that has not moved for more than 10,000 years. “We may have to consider the possibility of even greater earthquakes following, as happened in the quakes in Kumamoto,” Kyodo news quoted Shinji Toda, an earthquake geology professor at Tohoku University, as saying.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, over 170,000 homes in the region lost power. Airports were grounded and train lines were also suspended. The quake also hit several key industrial areas near Osaka. Panasonic and Daihatsu, two large conglomerates with operations close to Osaka have noted that they would be suspending production at their affected sites.
Our assessment is that the current earthquake poses no threat to any nuclear plants near the Osaka region. However, there are concerns that it could have involved a fault-line that has not moved for more than 10,000 years. This means that the region could become a witness to more catastrophic earthquakes in the near future.
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