After seeing the devastation from last month’s earthquake and tsunami in Northeast Japan, officials in Tokyo are re- evaluating their current disaster plan. The huge 9.0 quake on March 11th that occurred over 200 miles from Japans capital made them realize they weren’t prepared for the worst-case situation.
Japan has been working for over 40 years to make their country safer from devastating earthquakes. Earthquake engineering is a normal part of the construction process in Japan. City leaders were confident they had prepared for worse-case scenarios; until the quake that occurred last month near the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku.
Tokyo is well over 200 miles away from the Oshika Peninsula. Yet the effects of the massive earthquake caused power shortages, interrupted phone communications, stopped trains from running, and caused a panic among the people. Grocery stores were wiped out of essential items in just a few hours.
The additional damage to the Fukushima plants gave them another scenario to look at. The Hamaoka nuclear plant is close to the highly populated capital, and trying to evacuate an entire city of over 35 million people hasn’t even been thought about.
A university professor who is also involved with governmental disaster planning stated that in the case of a nuclear crises (such as with Fukushima) it would be utter chaos. Everyone would want to leave the city at once, and that just isn’t possible. It could force them back to World War two era evacuation plans; sending the children out first.
The Prime Minister and other officials have looked at a “what-if” scenario, involving a 7.3 earthquake hitting the center of Tokyo. Possible figures show that almost a quarter of a million people would be injured, over ten thousand killed and about 7 million would have to be evacuated.
Tokyo contributes about one third to Japans overall economy. Besides the economic devastation, the financial cost to rebuild and recover would be in the trillions. The experts have predicted an earthquake of this magnitude (7.3) hitting Tokyo within the next thirty years; giving the event a 70 percent probability.