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T&T seismologist: Japan quake 900 times bigger than Haiti’s

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan—sometimes referred to as ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ is now reeling from the devastation caused by an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 which triggered a tsunami as high as ten metres sweeping the north-eastern coastline. Only two days before, there was a 7.2-magnitude quake in the region. Seismologist Dr Joan Latchman of the Seismic Research Centre in St Augustine said the earthquake was 900 times bigger than the one which struck Haiti in January last year. The death toll has been recorded in the hundreds with hundreds more missing. Online reports state that in 1923 Japan experienced an 8.3 quake in Kanto which killed close to 140,000 people. Another quake in Kobe in 1995 killed close to 6,500.

An earthquake which occurred in 1993, caused a tsunami off the coast of Hokkaido and 202 people were killed. Japan’s population is estimated 127.3 million. Latchman said while there were no warnings for an earthquake, people should still take precaution. She said Trinidadians tended not to take warnings seriously and usually forget about events after a few days have gone by. Latchman said it was important to continuously issue warnings in order to be prepared. “We have been sounding this warning for a long time and people probably get tired of us saying it, but one day we are going to get a very large earthquake in our region and we need to prepare,” she said in an interview yesterday. She said T&T does not have legislation on building codes which could assist people in constructing earthquake resistant structures.

She said an earthquake with such magnitude could take many decades to occur. “We can’t say a date and time, but the activity in the earth’s crust is continuing,” Latchman said. She said T&T needed to ensure measures were put in place should an earthquake occur. Latchman said erecting earthquake resistant hospitals and schools and having a building code to follow could serve as damage control.
“There are a number of things we can do socially and individually. Having water systems that are robust and ensuring we have first aid supplies in our homes are simple steps we can take,” she said. Meanwhile, director of the Meteorological Office of T&T Emmanuel Moolchan, said while Japan had perhaps one of the best warning systems for a tsunami, the destruction could not have been prevented.