Recent damaging earthquakes in Japan, 2003-2008




During the last six years, from 2003-2008, Japan has been struck by three significant and damaging earthquakes: The most recent M6.6 Niigata Chuetsu Oki earthquake of July 16, 2007 off the coast of Kashiwazaki City, Japan; The M6.6 Niigata Chuetsu earthquake of October 23, 2004, located in Niigata Prefecture in the central Uonuma Hills; and the M8.0 Tokachi Oki Earthquake of September 26, 2003 effecting southeastern Hokkaido Prefecture. These earthquakes stand out among many in a very active period of seismicity in Japan. Within the upper 100 km of the crust during this period, Japan experienced 472 earthquakes of magnitude 6, or greater. Both Niigata events affected the south-central region of Tohoku Japan, and the Tokachi-Oki earthquake affected a broad region of the continental shelf and slope southeast of the Island of Hokkaido. This report is synthesized from the work of scores of Japanese and US researchers who led and participated in post-earthquake reconnaissance of these earthquakes: their noteworthy and valuable contributions are listed in an extended acknowledgements section at the end of the paper.

During the Niigata Chuetsu Oki event of 2007, damage to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, structures, infrastructure, and ground were primarily the product of two factors: (1) high intensity motions from this moderate-sized shallow event, and (2) soft, poor performing, or liquefiable soils in the coastal region of southwestern Niigata Prefecture. Structural and geotechnical damage along the slopes of dunes was ubiquitous in the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa region. The 2004 Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake was the most significant to affect Japan since the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Forty people were killed, almost 3,000 were injured, and many hundreds of landslides destroyed entire upland villages. Landslides were of all types; some dammed streams, temporarily creating lakes threatening to overtop their new embankments and cause flash floods and mudslides. The numerous landslides resulted, in part, from heavy rain associated with Typhoon Tokage. The earthquake forced more than 100,000 people into temporary shelters, and as many as 10,000 displaced from their upland homes for several years. Total damages was estimated by Japanese authorities at US$40 billion, making this the second most costly disaster in history, after the 1995 Kobe earth-quake. The 2003 Tokachi-Oki earthquake was the third event of magnitude 8.0+ to strike the southeastern portion of Hokkaido in the last 50 years. The event produced tsunami run-ups along the shoreline of southern Hokkaido that reached maximum heights of 4 meters. Accelerations recorded by seismic networks of Hokkaido indicated a high intensity motion region from Hiroo area to Kushiro City, with a PGA values in the range of 0.35 to 0.6g. Despite high acceleration levels, the observed ground failure, liquefaction, structural, port, and lifeline damages were remarkably light.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Recent damaging earthquakes in Japan, 2003-2008
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Missouri University of Science and Technology
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 30 p.
First page 1
Last page 30
Conference Title 6th International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering
Conference Location Arlington, VA
Conference Date August 11-16
Country Japan