Friday, November 13, 2015, saw far more than its share of death and violence. The most notorious of these events were the series of terrorist attacks carried out in Paris, which resulted in the deaths of roughly 130 people. Bombings also occurred in Beirut and Baghdad, with the death toll reaching 59.
Panic radiated throughout Japan when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 90 miles off of the southern coast, near the city of Makurazaki. Although there were neither signs of a tsunami nor was there any severe damage on the mainland, Japanese citizens were worried out of fear of another mass earthquake and tsunami like the one that occurred on March 11, 2011.
That day saw a devastating earthquake with a 9.0 magnitude hit the city of Sukuiso. Bad became worse when a tsunami generated by the earthquake struck the coastal town. The violent waves and vibration of the earthquake completely leveled the town. It is the 4th largest earthquake on record and the largest to ever hit Japan.
The situation deteriorated even further with the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant unfolded. The power plant was shut down after the initial earthquake, but the worst damage to the plant was dealt by the tsunami. The earthquake created a series of waves that reached heights up to 49 feet tall, which overcame the seawall and proceeded to flood the basements of the turbine buildings and disabled the emergency generators.The cooling systems and power supplies to the Fukushima Daiici Reactors were disabled as well due to the flooding, which subsequently lead to all three nuclear reactors melting within days.
The meltdown added more panic to the predicament. Many believed that something similar to the Chernobyl disaster would happen to them. The estimated death total was nearly 16,000, and the disaster displaced at least 230,000 others from their homes.
People were fearful that this recent earthquake would produce a similar turnout to the 2011 disaster, but they were lucky that nothing was seriously damaged. However these earthquakes are not unheard of and are likely to cause more destruction in the future. Japan is one of several nations that sits close to the Pacific Ring of Fire, a massive basin of underground volcanoes and faults within the Pacific Ocean, which often generates staggeringly powerful earthquakes.
Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire is the San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas fault is a massive “strike-slip” fault line that passes through California and Mexico– it is very close to Santa Cruz County as well.
The San Andreas Fault was the source of the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which ravaged much of California and caused millions of dollars in damage. Over 63 people died and over 3,000 were injured overall. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.9 and its epicenter was located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Although there is nothing we as humans can do prevent or predict an earthquake, we are able to prepare to protect ourselves for them and try to understand how certains faults operate. This recent earthquake may have fortunately done no major harm, but it is certainly not the last ruse we shall see from the Pacific Ring of Fire.
By: Michael Eshnaur