Japan: Tokyo earthquake would kill 9,600

June 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM
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TOKYO, June 7 (UPI) -- A magnitude 7.3 earthquake hitting the Tokyo area would destroy at least 300,000 buildings and kill 9,600 people, officials say.

A government review of potential quake damage said fire would do the worst damage in the capital, the Kyodo News Service reported. Experts said about 60 percent of the buildings lost in an earthquake would burn, while 40 percent would fall from the shaking.

The biggest problem in Tokyo is neighborhoods of wooden houses jammed so closely together that many are out of reach of fire equipment. Many residents in those areas are elderly and some resist changes that would make their neighborhoods safer.

Many of those areas are designated for redevelopment. The city is also trying to create fire lanes.

Isamu Kubota, 80, lives in a wooden house separated from neighboring buildings by less than 3 feet. Some alleys in the neighborhood are so narrow that a full-size adult has difficulty walking them.

"If there's a fire in this area, that would be it," he said. "We'd not stand a chance of being rescued."

In January, the government estimated a 70 percent probability of an earthquake of magnitude 7 or stronger hitting the Tokyo area within the next 30 years.

The 7.9-magnitude Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 killed more than 100,000 people in the Tokyo-Yokohama region. The quake was strong enough to move the 93-ton statue of Buddha at Kamakura 2 feet and did so much damage in Tokyo some officials considered moving the capital.

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