August 11th, 2009

Earthquake in Japan

Posted at 11:59 AM ET

small-japan-eq-mapA powerful earthquake struck the southern coast of Honshu in Japan at 20:07 UTC on August 10, 2009 (05:07 on 11 August local time), injuring more than 100 people, shaking buildings and shutting down a nuclear power plant. The earthquake, measuring 6.4 Mw, was located 20 miles (30 kilometers) south-southwest of Shizuoka City, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS added that the quake was centered about 16.2 miles (26 kilometers) underground. Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) measured the earthquake at a 6.5 magnitude. The JMA issued a tsunami warning shortly after the quake, but the alert was later lifted. Officials said 23-inch (60-centimeter) high waves were recorded in Shizuoka Prefecture, but no significant damage was reported. Thirteen significant aftershocks have been recorded following the main earthquake, reports said.

The USGS said around 7 million people live in areas impacted by a Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) of V or higher (see Table 1 below). Shizuoka (population of around 700,000 people), Yaizu (120,000), Sagara (25,000) and Fujieda (132,000) experienced intensity VII on the MMI scale, equivalent to very strong shaking with the potential for moderate/heavy damage, according to the USGS. According to the USGS, Tokyo (population of around 8.3 million) was affected by intensity IV on the MMI scale, equivalent to light shaking but not capable of causing significant damage.

According to reports, shaking from the earthquake was felt across Tokyo and surrounding areas, causing some objects to be thrown from shelves. At least 101 people were injured, mostly by falling objects, in the worst-hit prefecture of Shizuoka, including three who were in serious condition, officials said. Seven more people were injured in the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa and Aichi, the National Police Agency said. Four fires broke out in Shizuoka following the earthquake, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. Television pictures from Shizuoka showed glass bottles shattered on the floor of a convenience store, a TV newsroom with videotapes thrown from shelves, and a temple where tiles had been shaken off the roof and were scattered on the ground. Meanwhile, at least 5,000 soft brink bottles were smashed at a Sappro Breweries Ltd factory in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, according to company officials.

japan-eq-map

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or Instrat® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

The severe shaking from the earthquake caused the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Omaezaki (Shizuoka Prefecture) to shut down two reactors, operator Chubu Electric Power Co said. The two reactors at the plant - the 1,137 megawatt No.4 and the 1,267 megawatt No.5 units - shut down automatically after the quake, the company said. Chubu officials said they were still checking the facility and it did not know when the units would resume generating electricity. A company official said no radiation had leaked from the plant. The utility said the earthquake cut power to 9,500 households in the cities of Shizuoka, Kakegawa and Shimada in Shizuoka Prefecture. No other commercial operations in the area reported any major damage, reports said.

The earthquake also disrupted rail and road transportation in the epicenter region. Central Japan Railway Co suspended Shinkansen bullet trains in Shizuoka and part of Nagano Prefecture, but resumed services several hours later. Elsewhere, about 330 feet (100 meters) of the Tomei Expressway collapsed in Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture, and the surface of the road was raised by up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) at the Kakegawa interchange, according to the local police. Part of the motorway, which runs between Tokyo and Nagoya, was closed following the earthquake.

Estimated Population Exposed to Significant Earthquake Shaking

shake-table

Separately, another powerful earthquake hit India’s Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean on 10 August. The USGS said the powerful 7.6 Mw earthquake struck at 19:56 UTC (01:56 on August 11 local time) off the north coast of the Andaman Islands. A tsunami warning was issued for India, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh after the earthquake occurred, but it was later cancelled. No tsunami was recorded and there have been no reports of significant damage in the region.

Sources: USGS, WSI, Reuters News, Associated News, Agence France Presse, BBC News, CNN News, Xinhua News Agency, Kyodo News, Jiji Press English News Service

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