N.Z. shows horror of near-field quakes
It was a bleak scene that prevailed after Tuesday's earthquake in New Zealand--buildings and other structures were reduced to piles of rubble, including an old British-style brick church.
The disaster that struck Christchurch, the largest city on the country's South Island, has palpably demonstrated the ferocity of quakes that have their focus just below urban areas, known as near-field temblors.
The powerful earthquake has caused many casualties, including people crushed under the rubble of houses and other buildings that crumbled to the ground. According to media reports, an office building occupied by about 200 workers collapsed in the quake.
More than 3,000 Japanese are believed to have been in the city at the time of the earthquake, including local residents, tourists and students.
Among them were 23 teachers and students from Toyama College of Foreign Languages, who were visiting Christchurch to attend classes at a local school.
Reports say the teachers and students from Toyama were in the school cafeteria having lunch when the quake hit and that several members of the group were injured, some when they were trapped under the debris of the collapsed building. There has been no contact with some students.
We hope the Foreign Ministry, the travel agency responsible for arranging the group's trip to the city and all others connected to the latest disaster will try to confirm the situation of all Japanese victims as soon as possible.
The earthquake has disturbed road traffic and communication networks in the city. Many local residents have evacuated from the devastated city center. Local medical institutions have found their staff and equipment insufficient to treat a large number of wounded people, and a state of emergency has been declared in the city.
The Japanese government has sent an advance team to New Zealand to prepare for rescue operations in devastated areas there. Our country must extend swift and sufficient aid to the stricken area.
New Zealand is an earthquake-prone country, located in the southern Pacific Ocean at the convergence of two gigantic continental plates. Numerous active faults that can cause near-field earthquakes run under the country's inland areas.
This latest disaster came months after another major earthquake struck Christchurch in September, injuring more than 100 people. Tuesday's quake--which had a smaller magnitude than last year's temblor--turned out to be more devastating, as its focus was located only five kilometers underground.
New Zealand sees only one-tenth as many noticeable and major quakes of Japan. Only a few massive earthquakes have ever been recorded in New Zealand, a nation that experienced its first major influx of immigrants from Europe about two centuries ago. Also, little progress has been made in investigating the state of active faults and other seismic elements in the nation.
Quake resistance insufficient
The latest quake has destroyed not only historical structures but many new office and other buildings, including some that were constructed with advanced quake-resistant technology. The degree of damage suffered by these buildings shows their resistance to seismic shocks was less than satisfactory.
The Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 was no less illuminating in this respect. The damage caused by that disaster shed light on the lack of sufficient earthquake resistance in many buildings in this country.
Efforts have been made to improve the ability of such structures to withstand earthquakes, but there have been delays in anti-seismic reinforcement work on such structures as primary and middle school buildings nationwide.
It is essential to reexamine our preparedness for massive earthquakes, which could occur anywhere in the nation. This is particularly true with a near-field earthquake predicted to strike Tokyo soon, as well as quakes that seismologists say may happen in the Tokai region and some parts of the Kinki district.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2011)