Massive Japan Quake Kills Dozens, Wreaks Devastation Across Coast

Jan 3, 2024

Earthquake Energy and Frequency

This story was last updated: January 2 @ 11:30 PM EST

Rescue workers spent Tuesday frantically searching for survivors buried in a swath of wreckage. It was left by a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake. It has killed at least 62 people in central Japan.

The quake spun hundreds of aftershocks. It toppled tens of thousands of homes and buildings and set off fires. It also cut off water and electrical service to much of the region. And it triggered tsunami warnings from Japan to eastern Russia, authorities said. The Japanese government lifted those warnings early Tuesday.

Japan awaits a complete survey of the damage and a final death count. But it appears that prompt emergency warnings via the internet and cellphones may have reduced the loss of life. It's likely that a quick response by the public to seek safety may have helped too. Japan sits along the “Ring of Fire.” It's an arcing loop of fault lines and volcanoes. This ring follows the coastlines of Pacific Ocean nations. It places Japan very at-risk to earthquakes. 

“There are probably no people on Earth who are as disaster-ready as the Japanese,” a disaster specialist in Tokyo told The Associated Press.

Indeed, less strong quakes have killed far more people. In October 1948, for instance, a 7.3 quake killed 110,000. It struck Turkmenistan. It was the ninth deadliest in history. And a 6.8 temblor that struck Morocco killed 2,800. This happened in September.

The dire quake spun off another tragedy at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Tuesday. A coast guard aircraft bound for the quake-affected Noto Peninsula carrying relief supplies collided with a commercial plane. All 379 passengers on the Airbus A350 were rescued before the jet burst into flames. However, five crew members on the coast guard craft were killed. 

Reflect: How might communities prepare for and respond to natural disasters, and what measures can individuals take to stay safe during such challenging situations?

Based on the details in the infographic, the energy of a 7.6 earthquake is most comparable to which of the following events? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. the largest nuclear bomb test
b. Hiroshima atomic bomb
c. Mount St. Helens eruption
d. an average tornado
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

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