DETROIT – A very strong earthquake rocked Japan at 12:25 PM (EDT). The 7.0 magnitude quake’s epicenter was less than one mile from the city of Kumamoto-shi, and I expect that we’ll soon be hearing reports of catastrophic damage there.
Kumamoto-shi, at the southern end of Japan, has nearly three-quarters-of-a-million people, so I expect that there will be casualties, too.
There will likely also be some damage reported in the following cities: Uto (7 miles away), Ueki (8 miles away), and Matsubase (9 miles away).
At this time, there appears to be no tsunami threat.
Earthquakes are common in this area because of its geography. As a refresher, the surface of the earth rests on continent-sized “plates” of rock that move a little bit each year.
Movement around the boundaries of these plates builds up pressure and, sometimes, the plates experience a jolting “slip” or “slide” along each other. This jolt is what we feel at the surface as an earthquake.
In Japan’s case, the Pacific Plate is pushing westward toward the main Eurasian Plate. To give you a sense of the movement, the Pacific Plate moves westward about 8 centimeters (about 3 ½ inches) a year.