Another temblor hit Japan earlier today, and again in the Northeaster Honshu where just a month ago, a magnitude 7.2 quake caused massive damages. Today’s M6.8 jolt triggered landslides, caused train services to be suspended, and sent myriads of people to local hospitals.
I grew up in Japan, and thought that I was used to earthquakes. But on January 17, 1994, at 4:31 am, I was awakened by a thunderous jolt. I jumped up in bed, but seconds later, the night lights went out. Initially, I thought a bomb had gone off, so loud was the shaking, but as the bedroom trembled, and the legs of our queen sized bed lifted off the floor, I was resigned to the fact that the Great San Andreas quake had finally hit, and that we were all going to die. I heard crying from the rooms of our kids, but I was frozen. The floor was simply moving too hard for me to even stand.
Fortunately for our family, no one was hurt and our home was not severely damaged. Others were not so lucky. Over 70 people died, and billions of dollars of property damages were recorded.
Nothing prepared me for the Northridge quake. Scientists later pinpointed the epicenter to be on the corner of Reseda and Saticoy. That’s not too far from our favorite Japanese noodle place, and about 10-15 miles from our home.
Exactly one year later, on January 17, 1995, the Kobe quake struck. This time, thousands of people died.
Today, scientists say that there is a 99.7% chance that California will see a M6.7+ earthquake in the next 30 years, and a 46% chance of a M7.5+. In Japan, they say there is a 99% probability of M8.0 off the Miyagi coast in the next 30 years.
Sometimes I wonder why people choose to live under such odds. But then, I am reminded that given the rate I eat red meat, my odds of dying from an earthquake are probably lower than my chances of getting stomach cancer, or for that matter, getting hit by a car, getting struck by lightning, or winning the Lotto.
So, why bother worrying.
True, those shakers are tough to forget. Ask anyone who’s been through one. The sense of helplessness is just overwhelming.
Think of it this way. I have a dresser at home that I couldn’t move if my life depended on it. On the morning after the Northridge Quake, it had slid about a foot from where it was the prior night.
To the people in Northeastern Japan, I send my prayers. (And I must not forget those thousands who lost their lives in China and other nations around the world).
PS. Life-saving hint--go under a table (not the cheap IKEA or particle board ones) or into the toilet during an earthquake. Wear a hat or helmet. Most people get killed from falling objects.
PS. Second life-saving hint--get the hell out of Japan and California.