Japan quake: Buildings swaying for 2 minutes

More than 150 injured in quake in Japan: hospitals

From Channel NewsAsia, Posted: 16 July 2007 1135 hrs

TOKYO – A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake rattled Japan on Monday, injuring more than 150 people as it toppled houses, triggered mudslides and set off a blaze at a nuclear power plant.

In areas northwest of Tokyo, which were hardest hit, houses were reduced to rubble and a bridge was nearly cracked in two by the force of the mid-morning quake, Japanese television footage showed.

The government set up a crisis-management centre after the quake, which was powerful enough to shake skyscrapers and send goods flying from the shelves of stores in Tokyo more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) away from the epicentre.

Read more at Channel NewsAsia

I just contacted my friend in Tokyo. He said the buildings were swaying for two whole minutes and that it was “quite scary”. Two minutes in earthquake time must have seemed like eternity when you are in a high rise building in downtown Tokyo.

CNA reported that about 150 people were injured and there have been two reports of deaths. If a 6.8 magnitude earthquake happened anywhere else in the world so close to cities, that country would be facing a major catastrophie with hundreds, if not thousands of people killed or injured. I really take my hat off to the Japanese for making all their buildings so earthquake resistant.

Drunk driver?

I heard a loud crash at 4am below my block. When I looked out, I saw this minivan crashed into a neighbouring block void deck. I can’t fathom how someone could lose control of his vehicle on a relatively straight portion of the road. My only explanation is that he might be drunk.

Update: Sembawang Town Council wrote to me the next day to inform me that they have asked the police to investigate this incident, and will be sending a structural engineer to check out the block. Kudos to SBTC for its quick action.

News flash: Tremors felt in Singapore

I was in my flat in Sembawang at about 11.50am today and felt the building swaying for about 15-20 seconds. My friends across the island from Suntec City to Orchard Road to Clementi also felt it and some people even deemed it serious enough to evacuate their buildings.

SCDF says that they have “no idea” what caused it. I hope this was not a result of a massive earthquake in Indonesia or in the ocean, which could cause a tsunami.

Update from News Radio 93.8:
The tremors were a result of a 6.6 Richter scale earthquake in Sumatra, 400km from Singapore. News Radio interviewed someone in Centennial Tower who said that everyone there evacuated their building.

I’m a bit concerned that Singaporeans’ immediate reaction to an earthquake is to evacuate the building like during a fire. Although this might be fine for a minor tremor like the one just experienced, during a major quake, the correct action to take is to get under a door frame or a sturdy table. This is what I was taught when I lived in California. In fact the main cause of injury during earthquakes is not from collapsing buildings, but falling articles inside buildings and falling glass windows from buildings onto the ground below. Perhaps SCDF should educate Singaporeans on this.

Update at 13:53hrs:
Felt another tremor. This time it was longer. It lasted about 40 seconds. I hope structures in Singapore (including my own flat!) haven’t been damaged.

Also check out the websites of the US Geological Survey, National Environment Agency and Aaron Ng’s blog for updates.

Here’s what you should do during an earthquake if, God forbid, it gets really bad. According the the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur.

Update at 15:11hrs:
According to the Jakarta Post, least 9 people were killed and hundreds of buildings, including the state bank, were flattened by the Sumatra quake. The magnitude 6.3 quake killed at least two children, a teacher and a woman in a market in the Sumatran town of Solok. At least two hospitals were struggling to cope with a flood of patients, many of them suffering cuts and broken bones.

Let’s pray that the authorities there have things under control. The Singapore Government should offer to send a Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) to assist. Now is a better time than ever to put into action what our ministers said yesterday in Parliament.

Update on 7 Mar 07:

Singapore MFA’s press release at 2157hrs on 6 Mar:
“Singapore has expressed its condolences to Indonesia on the earthquake in West Sumatra. Our Embassy in Jakarta has conveyed Singapore’s offer of assistance to the Indonesian government.”

I’m sure the Indonesian government is going to reject this offer, lest Singapore starts carping again about how much we have helped the Indonesians in time of need.