Japanese government panel warns of ‘impending’ huge quake and tsunami off Hokkaido

Japan’s earthquake research panel has warned of a “high possibility” of an “impending” magnitude 9 quake in the Pacific off the eastern coast of Hokkaido which would likely trigger a massive tsunami within the next 30 years.

The Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion said on Tuesday (Dec 19) that heightened disaster preparations should be made as the area appears long overdue for a massive quake, reported The Asahi Shimbun.

Quakes of that scale have hit the area at average intervals of 340 to 380 years with the most recent one believed to have hit 400 years ago off eastern Hokkaido.

The panel put the possibility of a magnitude 9 earthquake occurring at between 7 and 40% and said that the next possible huge quake could be large enough to affect the neighbouring Aomori Prefecture where nuclear power plants are located, reported Kyodo News.

The panel, which is headed by University of Tokyo professor Naoshi Hirata, will evaluate the height of the expected tsunami from the next big quake and the likely seismic intensities in the affected areas.

According to The Japan Times, the country’s science and technology minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a news conference: “We are hoping this report will help local municipal governments to make necessary preparations and raise households’ awareness of disaster risk.”