Tokyo quake could devastate city

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The Independent Online
An earthquake as severe as the one that struck Kobe in 1995 would kill as many as 7,100 people if it happened in the Japanese capital, a government panel said yesterday. Such a quake and the subsequent fires resulting from burst gas mains and collapsing buildings could also injure 156,000 people and destroy or damage more than a half million buildings, said the report which was prepared by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Disaster Prevention Council.

The estimates of death and damage resulting from a Tokyo quake are only slightly worse than what actually occurred in the Kobe earthquake although Tokyo's population is almost 10 times as large. The Tokyo area is home to 12.5 million people. the whole Japanese archipelago lies on one of theworld's most active earthquake belts. The study did not take into account deaths and damage that might occur as a result of roads buckling or trains derailing.

The numbers were based on the council's worst case scenario in which an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude - the same size the one that hit Kobe - strikes directly beneath central Tokyo at the peak of the evening rush hour. Such a quake would leave 3.7 million commuters stranded. The worst damage would likely occur in areas surrounding central Tokyo where many older wooden homes and building still stand, the report said.