Friday, August 14, 2009


While living in Japan can sometimes experience earthquakes. It’s impossible to get used to them, but with some years of experiencing them I got somewhat a bit less panic than initially (depending from building type where I am). There are various types – little ones and far away ones – they just shake or tremble, more powerful will have violent and long swings and most destructive will have up and down movements.

Its very bizarre feeling during earthquake, because everything moves. Buildings have cracking sounds (depends from type of building). I also noticed that most unpleasant place to be during earthquakes is in high buildings – above 10th floor. Then even small shake seems like crazy disco party. Other dangerous places are mountain sides – as there is risk of landslide and underground tunnels like subways – risk of being drowned if water enters tunnel.

Another aspect of earthquakes is that they are unpredictable. As I remember from middle strength earthquakes, first push was really powerful and then it calms down gradually. There is not other way in nature that earthquake starts calmly and then increases strength. But as I understand from literature, before super strong earthquakes there can be some build up period and several small earthquakes happen before super strong ones.

After earthquake happens there are 2-3 days when it sends aftershocks - smaller than initial earthquake.

There are several risks from earthquakes such as:
1. being hit by falling object – furniture, broken windows etc.,
2. fire, flood if dams bursts, tsunami waves
3. collapse of buildings, bridges etc.
4. chemical hazard from factories releasing poisonous gasses due to leakage, destruction, lack of electricity etc.

Not much is known about earthquakes. If builders were honest and used enough cement in construction, then building probably can survive most of earthquakes.

As I understood so far, biggest risk when destructive earthquake strikes big cities is from falling windows and debris. Glass fall from big heights (top of buildings), hits the pavement and ricochets into all possible directions. It’s actually safer inside building than outside, still need to stay away well away from glass.

One day I met man from Kobe on train in Yokohama. Totally stranger to me, but I started to talk with him and we got in our conversation to earthquakes. While traveling to Tokyo he was actually prepared for possible earthquakes and had items like torch, water etc. He asked me what kind of shoes I am wearing and I showed my hiking boots as I was just coming from forest. He said it’s a right type of footwear and then he mentioned about broken glass. So yeah, buildings with glass walls look modern and stylish, but can be dangerous during earthquakes.

So, if outside is not really wide enough open area to avoid falling objects, its possibly better to stay inside building when earthquake strikes. Pedestrians should seek shelter inside buildings. Also, should not use elevator, because when some shake starts elevators will stop and person would be trapped until technician arrives. Usually there is no way to manually operate elevator door. Also, should stay away from windows and be careful when using staircases after earthquake has passed.

It’s also good to note where are fire exits in the building. Similarly as it is done in airplanes, because with panic it’s not possible to think and take deliberate action. Good airline companies will make stewardesses to show passengers all emergency procedures and show exits by hand (not just carelessly show everything on blurry match box size seat screen).

Other occasions:

When in subway it is safer to be in front or last carriage as there is emergency exits and you can observe when staff is doing.

Being inside train is safe I guess, but should be very careful when getting off train after earthquake or train accident as electrical wires might be in contact with train body and when getting off train can get electrical shock. Basically should get off train when it is safe to do it.


Alison said...

Good information. Wow, that Kobe guy was prepared whilst travelling? Interesting... I keep a emergency food and water supply in my flat, but don't carry anything when I travel...

Mountaincat said...

Thank you for comment. I am going to update this post when I get new information. Yeah, I thought he knows a lot as he have been thought that.

johnboy said...

Dear Mountaincat,
You type good english, get a christian bible or download one. There are 18 scriptures there where God disciplined the Jews in old days. Now God disciplines nations that dont believe and ask Jesus in there hearts.All spanish catholic countries too.Mormon's and Catholic's only deceive you about Jesus. Does this help. Get the word out and God Bless. God only wants your people to praise Him with your unique language.

Anonymous said...

I'm talking about EARTHQUAKES OK!

johnboy said...

I mean EARTHQUAKES COME FROM the Bible and God mountaincat.