Natural Calamities That Wrecked Japan Over The Last Three Decades

Japan currently tackling the effect of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake has been perturbed by fatal natural disasters for centuries owing to numerous geographical factors. Outlook looks at the deadliest disasters that shook Japan over the last thirty years.

Damaged roads and debris following the Chutes Earthquake in 2004

Japan has always been a hotbed for deadly natural disasters and people continue to live in the reality of it. The island nation which finds itself lying across three tectonic plates, including the Pacific Plate under the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea Plate, also falls on the Cirucm-Pacific belt or the 'Ring of Fire' which is a path along the Pacific Ocean dotted with active volcanoes. The tectonic shifts have led to earthquakes of massive seismic intensity and numerous tsunamis causing immense destruction. Presently grappling with the havoc that the 7.8 magnitude earthquake wreaked, on New Year's Day, which has already resulted in loss of around fifty lives, Japan continues to gasp for breath.

Outlook looks at major natural disasters that scourged Japan over the last three decades.

2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

March 11, 2011, witnessed Japan's worst earthquake and tsunami at a recorded magnitude of 9.1. Occurring in the east of the Oshika Peninsula of the Tōhoku region, it lasted for approximately six minutes. The tsunami which happened as a result, saw waves as high as 40m in Miyako. The recorded number of deaths according to the official figures released in 2021 was 19,759 with around 6242 injured. The earthquake also triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster which involved the meltdowns of three of its reactors, and the discharge of radioactive water in Fukushima and other areas.

1995 The Great Hashin Earthquake

Clocking a maximum intensity of 7.0, the earthquake took place in the southern part of the Hyogo Prefecture, including Hanshin. Kobe and Osaka, the cities closest to the epicentre experienced powerful tremors leading to immense death and destruction. Around 6434 people died as a result, and it was the deadliest earthquake to hit Japan since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.

2018 Japan Floods

In June through mid-July 2018, Japan experienced successive heavy downpours resulting in devastating floods and mudflows. The mudslides and the landslides led to the death of 225 people across 15 prefectures, with it being the deadliest freshwater related disaster in Japan since the 1982 Nagasaki floods. 

2004 Chuetsu Earthquake

The earthquake occurred on October 23, 2004, in the Nigara prefecture in Japan, which is in the Horishu region of Honshu. With a recorded magnitude of 6.6, the tremors were felt in major areas across half of the island of Honshu and resulted in the loss of 68 people with around 4805 people missing.

2014 Mount Ontake Eruption

The island of Honshu witnessed a fatal volcanic eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27, 2014. It was the deadliest volcanic eruption since Torishima in 1902. A popular tourist attraction for hikers and a relatively safe one as well, several hundred people were on its slopes during the eruption. The final numbers reported the death of 63 people.