Return to Special Reports Archive
A NHNE Special Report:
Japan Takes A Beating:
What Is Happening
& What We Can Learn From It
January 25, 1995
By David Sunfellow
© Copyright 1995 By NewHeavenNewEarth
Published By NewHeavenNewEarth / firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to pass this NHNE Special Report on to as many people as you like. If you do share this NHNE Special Report with others, we ask that you reproduce it in its entirety (including all credits, copyright notices and addresses), not alter its contents in any way, and pass it on to others free of charge.
JAPAN TAKES A BEATING:
What Is Happening & What We Can Learn From It
By David Sunfellow
Over the months, we have reported on major earthquakes in Japan. Although the earthquakes themselves deserved our attention because of their size and damage, we have been paying special attention to Japanese earthquakes because Japan figures prominently in many of the psychic predictions we have been following.
In 1934 Edgar Cayce was, as far we know, the first psychic to predict that Japan would experience serious earth changes.
"The greater portion of Japan must go into the sea."
(Edgar Cayce Reading #3976-15, 1/19/34)
Since then, legions of psychics have predicted a similar fate for Japan, some going so far as to predict that the entire island nation of Japan would be swept beneath the sea. Is there any scientific evidence to support these dire Japanese predictions?
Historically, Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone regions of the world. More than 440 severe earthquakes have been recorded in detail since Aug. 23, A.D. 416, when court chroniclers first wrote of one in the ancient capital of Asuka in central Japan. In 1993, 105 earthquakes were recorded, each measuring more than five on the Richter scale. And in 1994 the trend continued with two major quakes (Hokkaido, 8.2 and Hachinohe, 7.4) and thousands of aftershocks, some measuring as large as 6.9.
Japan is unusually prone to earthquakes because it is located at the meeting point of two major tectonic plates. According to scientists, the Philippine Sea plate is trying to force its way under the Eurasian plate.
In order to minimize deaths and damage from earthquakes, Japan spends $100 million a year trying to predict earthquakes. It has around 200 seismographs across the country poised to register shifts in the earth's crust and flash the data into a central computer in Tokyo. Japan is also attempting to strengthen its early warning system by placing 10 new floating seismographs in the Pacific Ocean off the eastern coast of Honshu.
Unfortunately, Japan's warning system failed to successfully predict the last three big earthquakes. According to experts, there was less historical data and they were offshore, making it harder to gather seismic data. This lack of early warning has produced fears that if a big one hits Tokyo, the capital of Japan, it will, after all, come as a surprise.
A recent study by a Stanford University group estimated a 7.9 quake (the same size as the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake which killed 140,000 people in post-tremor fires and destroyed some 560,000 homes), would kill between 40,000 and 60,000 people and cause damage of up to $1.8 trillion if it struck Tokyo today. What's more, a devastating Tokyo earthquake could also cripple the world economy by paralyzing one of the world's most important stock markets and economic powers.
Although Japan has not had much luck at predicting earthquakes, it has done surprisingly well at minimizing damage--until the recent 7.2 Kobe Earthquake struck. Striking one year to the day after the Northridge, California earthquake killed 61 people and caused some $20 billion dollars in damage to California, Japanese officials were both surprised and embarrassed that Kobe suffered a similar fate. Japan's strict regulations on quake-proof buildings, as well as its efficient warning system which automatically flashes the size of tremors and warnings about tidal waves onto TV screens, led many Japanese to boast that their cities would fare far better than California did. In fact, Kobe fared far worse. To date, over 5,000 people have been killed and 26,000 injured. 50,000 buildings were destroyed, 310,000 people were left homeless, a million households were left without water, 40,000 households had no electricity, and 850,000 had no natural gas. All told, officials estimate that there has been over $60 billion in damages. These are staggering numbers.
Kobe is the first urban area since World War II to sustain a direct hit from an earthquake more powerful than 7 on the Richter scale. Other cities that experienced 7 or larger earthquakes suffered less damage because the earthquake epicenter was located elsewhere. According to news reports, the fault that was triggered near Kobe suddenly lurched a total of 6 to 10 feet in opposite directions. Not many man-made structures can survive that kind of jolt.
On the other hand, had Kobe been more prepared, rescue workers could have rushed in, raging fires could have been stopped, injured people could have been reached and treated, and relief supplies could have been delivered when and where they were most needed.
Things were so desperate in Kobe that tens of thousands of people simply left. They packed what few belongings they could and set out, on foot, for other Japanese cities. Meanwhile, back in Kobe, food--and especially water--was very difficult to get. Warm, dry, stable shelter--of any kind--was hard to find. And, thanks in part to exhaustion and unsanitary living conditions, a flu epidemic erupted.
Another immense problem was the terrible psychological effect the earthquake had on its survivors. After losing friends, loved, and all of their life's possessions, many people were so deeply depressed that they fell into a paralyzing stupor. They sat or wondered the streets in a daze.
And then there was the problem of aftershocks, which continued relentlessly, making it difficult to sleep for fear of being crushed by falling debris.
According to Newsweek, "Never in the postwar period has Japan's image of itself changed so wrenchingly and so swiftly. Five years ago, the economic ascendance seemed as if it would never end." And now, the political life of Japan is in an uproar, its economy is in a serious slump, and an unexpected earthquake has leveled one of Japan's most important seaport cities. What's more, the Kobe earthquake revealed that Japan was not as prepared as it thought it was for dealing with such disasters.
If all this weren't enough, others have taken the opportunity to add insult to injury. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi described last week's destructive earthquake as "God's revenge."
In comments carried by Libya's official news agency JANA, Gaddafi said the January 17 tremor was divine retribution for serving the "devilish United States." According to Gaddafi, "We were expecting it and we prayed to God to do this to Japan."
What lessons can be learned from Kobe?
- Earthquakes are still very unpredictable. Scientists are not only unsure WHEN, exactly, they will strike, but they are also unsure WHERE, exactly, they will strike.
- Modern earthquake-proof structures can withstand the stress of major earthquakes (in the 7.0 range anyway), but old ones can't. Modern earthquake-proof structures that do survive are, however, often seriously damaged--and very expensive to repair.
- Most deaths and injuries are caused by heavy objects striking or falling on people (which means many lives can be saved by securing furniture, televisions, bookcases and other heavy objects so that they cannot be hurled through the air during an earthquake).
- Aside from deaths caused by people being struck, or crushed by falling objects, another major cause of death is fire and untreated injuries.
- Gas lines break and explode and, at the same time, water lines snap and cannot be used to fight fires.
- When roads are down and obstacles are strewn all over, bicycles, scooters and motorbikes become effective methods of transportation.
- One of the things that spared Northridge from greater suffering was a well planned and executed natural disaster plan. Emergency shelters were fully stocked and ready to go. Fireman, ambulances, police, search dogs, and other authorities were able to reach their targets because clear plans were in place and roads were kept clear and open. In Kobe's case, no such system was in place. Fires burned out of control. Shelters were unprepared for the casualties and injuries. Injured people could not get the help they needed. Roads were hopelessly blocked. Emergency crews didn't have the proper tools to cut through and search wreckage. In short, both civilian and government officials didn't seem to know which end was up.
- On the positive side, Kobe residents demonstrated the stoic perseverance the Japanese people are known for. There were no reports of looting. Many shared what little food they had. And even though many were very upset with how the Japanese government handled (or mishandled) their situation, they accepted what had taken place and resolved to begin anew. Many older Japanese had, in fact, seen their city reduced to rubble before--by allied bombers during World War II.
After reading this far, perhaps you are thinking about relocating to some earthquake-free zone on planet Earth? Although some areas are undoubtably safer than others, even the experts are no longer sure where the safest areas on the planet may be. Almost daily, new faults are being discovered in the most unlikely places, some of them many miles below the earth's surface. As Newsweek magazine pointed out, "No place on earth may be safe from the possibility of tectonic mayhem. More than 100,000 quakes occur each year around the globe."
So what about Japan? Is Japan likely to experience the kind of sweeping earth changes Cayce and other psychics predicted?
If it isn't already, it sure looks possible. Not only are Japanese earthquake experts predicting more earthquakes, but, like California earthquake experts, they are predicting more, BIGGER ones, sometime in the near future!
And finally, whether we live in "known" earthquake zones or not, the kind of experience the people of Kobe have passed through is full of valuable insights and information. How would you and I do if we were confronted with a similar situation? How prepared are we for sudden, dramatic, unexpected, possibly catastrophic change? What important pieces of information can we learn from their experience? We'll be taking a closer look at the subject of preparing for times of change in NHNE News Brief 5.
Source: Reuters, Associated Press, Time (January 30, 1995), Newsweek (January 30, 1995)
Return to Special Reports Archive