Japan Worried About Massive Earthquake, Unveils New Warning System

Japan will be introducing a new warning system for the first time in 40 years to alert their residents of a potential massive earthquake, its government announced Tuesday. The warning system will be implemented in November and will work to alert residents in the Pacific coast areas in the central and southwestern part of Japan to the earthquake that is expected to hit the Nankai Trough, according to the Japan Times.

Currently, the country bases its evacuation system off its Large-Scale Earthquake Countermeasures Act, compiled back in 1975, where a group of experts predicted when and if an earthquake would strike. The new warning system will be based on foreshocks, which are small tremors that come right before a violent earthquake. After these foreshocks are felt, Japan’s Meteorological Agency will send out the warnings to specific coastal areas when the possibility of the quake becomes more imminent. The warnings will urge residents to evacuate if they need to and will prepare workers to issue supplies.

“The government said in 2012 that up to 300,000 people could be killed in the event of a magnitude 9 quake in the Nankai Trough,” the Japan Times wrote, “and in 2014, it outlined a 10-year program aimed at reducing casualties from such a quake by 80 percent.” A 300,000 person loss would mark one of the most deadly natural disasters in the country's history. 

The new warning system came out of a panel of experts at the government’s Central Disaster Management Council. They published a report saying, “it is difficult to make a prediction [of a massive earthquake] with a high degree of certainty,” according to the Times. The panel urged the government to strengthen its efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese residents, which is how they decided to work with foreshocks and other new technology.

This earthquake could be the latest in a swarm of natural disasters across the world. These disasters have already hit nearly every continent so far in 2017, from major flooding and monsoons in South Asia, massive hurricanes and earthquakes in North America, drought and landslides in Africa and tsunami threats in Central America.