Early on April 14th and 16th, a series of massive earthquakes hit Kumamoto and Oita prefectures. They took many precious lives and assets. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the victims.
Earthquake Fault Lines
When I heard the news of the first earthquake around 9.00 pm on April 14th, I couldn’t believe it. I had never imagined that such a large earthquake would hit these areas, though I knew they were susceptible to eruptions of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto.
More surprisingly, the magnitude 6.5 main quake was followed by a magnitude 7.3 quake in the early hours of April 16th. Later, there was an announcement that the earthquake on the 16th was the main quake and the previous one on the 14th was a fore-shock.
It is believed that the earthquake on the 14th occurred on an active fault called the Hinagu Fault Belt. Since then, aftershocks have continued and the epicenter’s area has stretched northeast into Oita prefecture. Experts are analyzing the causes of these earthquakes, and details will be gradually revealed.
I have dealt with topography and geological conditions across Japan as a river improvement engineer for twenty years. Looking at the distribution of earthquakes, it seems as though the median tectonic line has moved. This median tectonic line was formed during the Cretaceous Period, about 65 to 145 million years ago. It had been thought that such old fault lines would never move. Therefore, no one imagined that the median tectonic line would move. However, when I look at the distribution of epicenters and the stretching of the epicenter to the northeast, it seems to coincide with the median tectonic line.
Those responsible for disaster risk management across the world call Japan “a show window of disasters”. It is true that the country fall victim to all sorts of disasters. In fact, there is no type of disaster that Japan doesn’t experience. There are earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, heavy rains, floods, storm surges, heavy snow, avalanches, lightning, tornadoes, landslides, cold-weather damage, and droughts. Among these, the earthquake is the harshest, because it strikes unexpectedly, without warning.
Near the Japanese archipelago, four major tectonic plates collide with each other. Because of this, 20 percent of the earth’s major earthquakes and 10 percent of its active volcanoes occur in Japan, though the country accounts for only 0.3 % of the earth’s surface. The figure below illustrates this.
About 3,000 years ago, the Japanese people began to grow rice on their islands. At that time, the alluvial plains were wetlands surrounded by mountains on one side and the sea on the other. This land formation bordered by mountains, oceans and rivers prevented the Japanese people from moving to other areas. Therefore, they formed rice-growing communities and worked together to recover from the damage caused by whatever disasters they faced.
It is difficult to come to terms with an earthquake, which strikes us unexpectedly without warning. It is an unexplained phenomenon. The cause of an earthquake is always explained after the fact. If we can call something unexplained “irrational”, nothing is more irrational than an earthquake.
I can only pray that all those affected by this latest disaster will overcome their hardships and build stronger communities.
News from the Japan Water Forum
Join the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) from 10th – 14th July 2016 with us!
Asia-Pacific Water Forum, which Japan Water Forum is the secretariat, has become a supporting organization of Singapore International Water Week.
The Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) is the global platform to share and co-create innovative water solutions.» Read more
Report from the Japan Water Forum
14th Meeting of the Committee for Basic Strategy of the Water Security Council of Japan (WSCJ)
The 14th meeting of the Basic Strategy of the WSCJ was held at the Korakuen campus of Chuo University on May 23rd, after a gap of two and a half years. Participants reconfirmed that the recommendation, Towards a Low-Carbon and Sustainable Water and Material-Circulating Society (presented in October 2012) should be realized in the future. They also shared information about various activities of the action teams and committee members.
Seventh Meeting of the High-Level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP)
The seventh meeting of HELP took place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on May 11th, during the 4th International Climate Change Adaptation Conference, held from May 10th to 13th. Discussions were focused mainly on the High-level Panel on Water and the international water architecture, investment and financing for water-related disaster prevention, and droughts and climate change. A high-level dialogue also took place, attended by ministers participating in the Delta Coalition.
65th Flood Fighting Drill in the Tonegawa River Basin: Flood Fighting Drill Tour and Exhibition
On May 21st, the 65th flood fighting drill took place in the Tonegawa River basin in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture. The Japan Water Forum organized a tour, inviting ambassadors and officials from embassies and international organaizations in Tokyo to experience the drill. This year, twenty officials from thirteen countries joined our tour. In the exhibition area, the JWF ran a booth, offering a quiz on water in order to raise awareness.
After the flood fighting drill, we visited Inatoi Pond, a flood control reservoir, located upper sream of the drilling site.» Read more
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