From: Reuters
Published November 2, 2007 08:10 AM

Quake in west Japan could kill 42,000: report

TOKYO (Reuters) -Up to 42,000 people could be killed if a strong earthquake struck the Osaka metropolis and surrounding areas of western Japan, government experts said.

The worst-case scenario would be a magnitude 7.6 tremor shaking central Osaka on a winter morning around 5 a.m., as the deadly Kobe earthquake did in 1995, said a report issued by the Central Disaster Management Council on Thursday.

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It based the prediction on factors such as possible building collapses, fires, landslides, and toppled utility poles and signposts.

The experts looked at the likely impact of 13 strong earthquakes that could hit central Japan -- a densely populated area with over 44 million people that includes the major cities of Osaka and Nagoya with many old wooden buildings.

They concluded 42,000 people could be killed and 220,000 injured in building collapses, fires and landslides. The number of destroyed buildings would be the greatest at 970,000 if the quake happened at noon, when many people would be using gas for cooking and fires could spread.

The predicted damage for Osaka, the third-biggest city in Japan, was greater than for central Tokyo, where a strong tremor could kill up to 13,000 people, according to previous reports.

Tsunami damage was not mentioned in the report, as studies showed it would be insignificant in such a case, a government official said.

The results will be used to help create a plan for quake prevention, emergency responses, and post-quake reconstruction.

In quake-prone Japan a tremor occurs at least every five minutes.

The magnitude 7.3 tremor in Kobe in 1995 killed over 6,400 people. In July this year a magnitude 6.8 tremor killed seven people and injured hundreds in Niigata, northwest Japan, also putting the world's biggest nuclear power plant out of action.

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