A powerful earthquake centered off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan struck late on March 16, registering up to an upper 6 on the 7-point Japanese seismic intensity scale and causing strong tremors in many parts of the country.
The temblor, which was even felt some 1,000 kilometers away in Kyushu in Japan's southwest, left three people dead and at least 200 injured in the Tohoku, Kanto and other regions.
The quake apparently reminded many people of the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. At the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima Prefecture, cooling pumps for spent nuclear fuel pools came to a temporary halt. Thorough inspections are called for over whether the failure posed any safety issues.
In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, a Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train derailed, leaving passengers and crew trapped inside the carriages for about four hours.
The focus of the latest quake is close to where the powerful temblor with a maximum intensity of an upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale struck in February 2021. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, an earthquake of a similar intensity may occur over the next week or so. It is urged that people remain vigilant against such a scenario.
In areas that were severely rattled by the latest temblor, buildings were destroyed and water supplies disrupted. Local governments are urged to closely inspect the damage and swiftly deliver necessary supplies including drinking water.
The affected areas are feared to be hit by bad weather over the weekend. It is likely that the ground has loosened due to the earthquake, making it susceptible to landslides. People are urged to be on their guard against such damage and stay away from dangerous areas.
Even areas far away from the quake's focus have seen their lifelines significantly disrupted. More than 2.2 million households, primarily in the Kanto region that includes Tokyo, suffered power blackouts. Electricity supplies were resumed for most of the affected homes before too long, but the outages restricted residents' lives.
In the wake of major earthquakes in the past, there were numerous instances of fires breaking out due to damaged cables catching fire after power supplies were restored. To prevent such a phenomenon, it is necessary to turn off breakers during power outages. It is called into question whether authorities sufficiently made requests for people to take caution regarding this.
In central Tokyo, traffic lights failed in entertainment quarters and residential areas, prompting police officers to stand on roads for traffic control.
In the greater Tokyo area and elsewhere, there were a spate of cases where people were trapped inside elevators after they came to a halt due to the temblor.
As a quake-prone country, Japan may experience a big tremor anytime, anywhere. Some experts say the Japanese archipelago has entered a seismically active period since the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
It is essential to adopt countermeasures against major earthquakes on the assumption that they will impact broad swaths of areas. Both the public and private sectors are urged to examine once again whether they are prepared to minimize damage in the event of a massive temblor.