LETTER FROM TOKYO
It’s always a reminder. Each powerful earthquake around the world, like the one that recently struck Morocco, refreshes the Japanese’s memory of the risk weighing on an archipelago located on the “ring of fire” of the Pacific, at the convergence of three tectonic plates whose collision directly threatens Tokyo and its periphery.
A recent article published in the daily Asahi criticizes the formula regularly used by Japanese politicians when a disaster occurs: “What just happened was unexpected. » From the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which was indeed unpredictable in this region, to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, which was not unpredictable due to the warnings of seismologists about the need to build a higher dike protecting the power plant, the “unexpected” brandished by politicians is an absolute self-justification, if not incompetence, continues the newspaper, which considers that “the threat of a disaster with unimaginable effects still weighs on Tokyo”.
The powerful magnitude 9 marine earthquake which occurred in 2011 in the Pacific, northeast of the Tohoku region, and caused the devastating tsunami (18,500 dead or missing) shattered the security myth of an archipelago sheltered from disasters maintained by the authorities. And, today, if there is one expected catastrophe, it is a large-scale earthquake hitting the capital. In the case of this “Big One”, it will be difficult to say that he was ” unexpected “ : the question is not if it will take place, but when.
Very vulnerable bay neighborhoods
According to official estimates, there is a 70% chance that an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 or greater will strike the Tokyo area within the next twenty-five to thirty years. However, the urban puddle that forms the capital and its neighboring departments has no less than 37.5 million inhabitants. According to the latest projections dating from 2022, despite the strengthening of anti-seismic structures, the “Big One” would cause more than 6,000 deaths and 93,000 injuries, and would lead to the destruction of more than 600,000 homes in the 23 districts of the Japanese capital.
The threat is all the more present in people’s minds as the centenary of the great Kanto earthquake has just been commemorated, on 1er September 1923, which caused the death of more than 100,000 people and made Tokyo and Yokohama “reddish ash deserts” fanned by the wind of a typhoon, writes Paul Claudel in Through the burning cities. 1er September has since become the day when the Japanese are supposed to carry out exercises to prepare for another disaster, but municipal authorities are concerned about the decline in the population’s sense of danger.
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