<< 2003 Hokkaido Earthquake - Log 2 of 2

Some updates and aftermath from the September 26, 2003 earthquake...

Strongest quake in 9 years

There has been some debate as to the actual magnitude of the quake. The US Geological Survey and the Japan Meterological Agency have finally agreed that the magnitude was 8.0 (Richter). The USGS has also confirmed that this earthquake is the strongest quake recorded this year in the world.

The last time a stronger quake was recorded in Japan was in 1994 -- a magnitude 8.2 quake off Kushiro, eastern Hokkaido.

The quake was initially recorded in the town of Toyokoro, Tokachi region, Hokkaido. The tremors registered a Weak 6 on the JMA seismic scale from 1 to 7.

Aftershocks continue, more predicted over next 10 days

There was one severe aftershock (magnitude 7.1) about one hour after the initial earthquake. There were three major (magnitude between 5 and 5.4) aftershocks through Sunday. It doesn't seem to have hit the news yet, but we felt another moderate aftershock this morning. (JMA seismic class maximum of 2.8 over a 48 second period recorded at Furano City Hall.) (UPDATE: That was a magnitude 5.8 at 11:22 am.)

The Japan Meteorological Agency currently warns of a 20% chance of a 7.0 aftershock and a 50% chance of a 6.0 aftershock over the next three day period.

Updated casualty figures, damage reports

As of this morning, NHK reports 574 confirmed injuries, and three reported lost at sea and feared drowned. (Two in Toyokoro, and one fisher from Obihiro lost at an unknown location.) There is still only confirmed death related to the earthquake.

It is now reported that at least 100 buildings have been damaged or destroyed, and 13,000 homes have been evacuated.

Naphtha fire still burning at Tomakomai

The first Idemitsu Tomakomai Oil Refinery fire, which started in a crude oil tank shortly after the initial quake, was extinguished in seven hours.

A second fire broke out at 10:36 Sunday morning, at a 30,000 liter naphtha tank naphtha tank 300 meters away from the site of the first fire. Over 20 fire trucks are a the scene, and a special chemical firefighting team was dispatched from Tokyo. At the time of this writing (11:00 am Monday), the fire was still burning. Some classes of naphtha can ignite at temperatures as low as 30C. It is thought that the blaze was set off by static electricity.

It has been reported that Idemitsu did not report the extent of the damage to its facilities to the Tomakomai Fire Department, as is required by Japanese law. Oil and other chemicals have leaked from four tanks, and a further two kerosene tanks have had their lids forced open by the quake and its aftershocks. More than 20 of the 100 tanks at the facility have suffered damage.

(UPDATE: The fire finally burned itself out after 36 44 hours. Most of the tank had completely melted and collapsed from the heat. It's a good thing those things are designed to collapse straight down, and slowly, because there were other tanks only about 30 m away...)

Tsunami much bigger than originally reported

Although the biggest tidal waves were reported at 1.3 meters on Friday, an investigation by the Japan Association of Civil Engineers has shown that waves higher than 4 meters have struck Erimo Misaki Cape.

It is feared that tidal waves may have caused three or more deaths. In 1993, tsunami from a magnitude 7.8 quake killed 200 people in Hokkaido.

Lady wears shoes indoors

A china shop owner in Kushiro had so much broken ceramics and glass on her floor, she was forced to wear shoes inside! (This was actually a 30-second segment on NHK national news.)

Total damages reported at 11 billion yen (approximately USD $100 million.) Approximately 9.3 billion yen of the damage was to buildings. (October 3, 2003.)

(Culled from local TV, newspaper, and internet news.)