Massive Earthquakes Strike Japan Two Days In A Row

Unlucky streak

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the Japanese Island of Kyushu today, causing many injuries, deaths, and extensive damage. Buildings collapsed and nearly 50,000 residents slept outside as they waited for the danger to pass.

It is the second day of large earthquakes hitting the island, with earthquakes measuring 6.2 and 6.0 in magnitude striking on April 14, killing 9 and injuring over 800. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has recorded over 19 earthquakes in the area since the magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck yesterday, including the 7.0 earthquake today, which itself was swiftly followed by a magnitude 5.7 earthquake and a magnitude 5.8 earthquake earthquake.

Aftershocks are defined as smaller earthquakes that follow after the largest earthquake in a series. But just because they are smaller than the main event, aftershocks can still cause damage, shaking structures already damaged in the first quake. No one can predict exactly how long a series of aftershocks will last. Some can occur as late as months or years after a large earthquake, and the effects of this earthquake are likely to keep reverberating for some time.

CNN is reporting that aftershocks in the area are expected to continue over the next week.

The death toll has not yet been released by local authorities, who are busy responding to the crisis, but based on the shaking and the demographics of the area, the USGS currently estimates that the likelihood of 1,000-10,000 deaths due to the 7.0 quake is 56 percent, with the chance of the death toll remaining between 100 to 1,000 is 28 percent. There is a 15 percent chance that the death toll could climb above 10,000.

Those are grim statistics, on par with the estimated 8,000 that died in the Nepal Earthquake last year, but still a fraction of the estimated 19,300 that died in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan. Japan, which lies at the convergence of several tectonic plates, is no stranger to earthquakes, and strict building codes likely prevented this disaster from being even worse than it already is.

The series of earthquakes does not appear to have harmed nuclear power plants in the region, a constant fear since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The earthquake was caused by two tectonic plates sliding against each other, in this case, where the Philippine Sea plate is colliding with the Eurasian plate at a rate of about 2.2 inches every year.