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Gov’t projects 320,000 deaths in event of earthquake in Nankai Trough(Japan Today)

TOKYO —The government on Wednesday unveiled a worst case disaster scenario warning that a magnitude 9 earthquake in the Nankai Trough off Japan’s Pacific Coast could kill over 320,000 people, dwarfing last year’s quake-tsunami disaster.

According to the projections released by the Cabinet Office, up to 320,000 people could be killed in 30 prefectures by tsunami generated by a massive earthquake in the trough which stretches for 750 kilometers from Kanto to Kyushu.

The projections were based on a scenario in which a quake strikes at nighttime during the winter with strong winds helping to unleash tsunami up to 34 meters high, sweeping many victims away as they slept.

Many of the estimated 323,000 victims would be drowned by the tsunami, crushed under falling objects or in fires sparked by the disaster, it said.

The highest number of casualties are expected to be in Shizuoka (109,000 projected deaths), followed by Wakayama (35,000), Miyazaki (34,000) and Kochi (25,000).

However, the report said the number of deaths could be reduced by 80% if evacuations begin within 10 minutes of a tsunami alert. It also called for more evacuation centers on high ground and taller buildings, as well as regular evacuation drills.

At the town of Kuroshio in southwestern Kochi Prefecture, the tsunami could reach 34.4 meters—the highest level projected under the scenario, the Cabinet Office said.

In its previous projection in 2003, the panel gave a worst case scenario in which no areas would be hit by a tsunami of more than 20 meters.

But the panel has upgraded its predictions in the wake of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11 last year that sent a tsunami barreling into the northeast, killing some 19,000 people and devastating the coastline.

“As long as we live in Japan, we cannot deny the possibility of a huge earthquake and tsunami,” Masaharu Nakagawa, state minister for disaster management, told reporters Wednesday.

The report was designed to paint a worst-case scenario and help officials boost their disaster preparedness.

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