Scientists at the Tokyo Earthquake Research Institute said there was evidence that pressures on the tectonic plates that meet below the city have changed, raising the possibility of two or more focal points on the plate boundaries shifting simultaneously. That would result in an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3, they estimate.
And while that magnitude is smaller than the level-9 quake that struck of the northeast coast of Japan nearly six months ago, the impact on a densely populated and built-up area could be catastrophic.
“We estimate that 10,000 people would die and the economic loss would be around $1 trillion,” Naoshi Hirata, a researcher at the institute, told The Daily Telegraph.
That estimate may be on the conservative side, however, given that around 18,000 people died in the March 11 earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered.
“Even before March, we estimated that there was a 70 per cent likelihood of a major earthquake affecting Tokyo at any time within the next 30 years,” said Hirata, who is also a member of the government’s Earthquake Research Committee.