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Kumamoto (a city on the west coast of the southernmost island of the four main islands of Japan) suffered a big earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 at 9:26pm JST (5:26am PST) on April 14, 2016. When I came to know about this disaster via TV news, I felt shocked and saddened. Japan suffered a monster earthquake and tsunami only 5 years ago! And here it comes again.

The initial report of fatalities (7people) made the earthquake seem manageable compared with the terrifying magnitude of 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Since we had visited Kumamoto area only 3 years ago I felt rather close to the people of Kumamoto and very sorry for them. I knew there were countless small magnitude aftershocks (200+) following the major one on April 14, but believed this 6.2 magnitude earthquake was the major one. Thus, I became almost speechless when I heard on the Japanese news that Kumamoto suffered another major earthquake with a magnitude of 7 less than 2 days later (1:25am JST, April 16). The Japan Meteorological Agency, an agency of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, immediately revised the naming of the first big earthquake into the “foreshock” of the main shock that occurred 1 ½ days later. This time the epicenter was the east side of Kumamoto city. The damages were more extensive, involving the famous volcano, Mt. Aso area, as well as the popular onsen/spa areas of Kumamoto and Oita prefectures, and fatalities more numerous. The news reported a bridge over the Kurokawa River disappeared in a huge landslide. I felt quite sad and worried, remembering our drive along a narrow bridge on the steep mountainside on the way to Kumamoto city from Kurokawa onsen, which is located close to the Oita Prefecture.

I have been apprehensive about the possibility of more big earthquakes in the Kyushu area for a few days after the main shock on April 16th. But, it seems most of the continuing quakes happening in Kyushu are small-scale aftershocks. I hope nothing more disastrous happens anymore.

As of April 25th (I remember a big earthquake hit Nepal one year ago), 49 people died due to the Kumamoto earthquakes, including 12 people who died in the shelters due to the “Economy-Class Syndrome,” physical sickness similar to the one people experience after riding in a long flight in the economy class, (I did not know such a syndrome definition existed before) and more than 3000 people were injured. It seems that many housing structures built before 1971 (when the building code was revised to withstand stronger earthquakes) suffered severe damages; there were many structures built according pre-71 building code in Kyushu because Kyushu had not experienced many earthquakes before Kumamoto Earthquakes.

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