Thursday 31 December 2009

Great Tokyo earthquakes

Today is traditionally a day for looking back, so that’s what I’m going to do – 306 years in fact, to December 31, 1703. On that day, Tokyo, then known as Edo, was hit by an earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.

Worse, though, was the tsunami that followed it. This hit the Boso Pensinsula and Sagami Bay, and some put the total death toll as high as 150,000. If this is accurate, it would make it the most deadly tsunami in history after the Boxing Day disaster of 2004.

220 years later, Tokyo would be hit by another fearsome earthquake on September 1, 1923. As devastating as the quake itself were the fires that swept through the city’s packed wooden houses as kitchen cooking braziers were knocked over.

The fires raged for days, and Tokyo lost more than 300,000 buildings. Its port Yokohama, 18 miles away, also suffered dreadfully, with the loss of 60,000 buildings. Altogether, 150,000 people were killed and nearly 2 million made homeless.

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