Preparation and good luck helped save Japan yesterday from the carnage seen after Algeria’s devastating earthquake last week, it was reported today.
Only a handful of people were seriously hurt by the potentially disastrous magnitude 7.0 tremor that shook northern Japan’s main island.
But experts warned Japan might not be so lucky next time.
It was the biggest quake to hit the country in more than two years and shook buildings in the capital Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicentre.
About 100 people were hurt, but most of the injuries were minor and none were believed to be life-threatening.
Experts said the depth of the epicentre was the key.
“The biggest reason it didn’t cause so much damage was because it occurred at a very deep spot, about 44 miles underground,” said Yoshimitsu Okada of the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention.
“If it had been shallower,” he said, “it could have been a major disaster.”
A magnitude 7 quake can cause major damage over a widespread area. More than 6,000 people were killed in the western city of Kobe by a magnitude 7.2 quake there in 1995.
The devastating earthquake that rocked northern Algeria last week, killing at least 2,047 people, was actually weaker than the one that hit Japan.
The Algeria quake was estimated at magnitude 6.8, but it was focused just six miles underground.
Japan is one of the world’s most seismically vulnerable countries and has accordingly adopted tougher building standards than the North African nation.
But although Japan escaped a worst case scenario yesterday, Okada warned that the country was not immune to devastation.
“There are old buildings in every city, whether it be Algiers or Kobe, and their damage is inevitable when a big quake hits,” he said.