Extensive property damage from ground shaking and fires reported on Japan’s Noto Peninsula
Updated January 5, 2024
A shallow magnitude (Mw) 7.5 earthquake hit western Japan on Jan. 1, 2024, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The earthquake caused damage and disruption to cities on the Noto Peninsula in the Ishikawa prefecture.
Modeled Insured Losses Expected To Be Less Than $5B
CoreLogic estimates that insured losses in Japan due to damage from ground shaking, fires following, tsunamis, and liquefaction could be between $1 and $5 billion (144.6 billion and 722.8 billion yen).
This insured loss estimate includes damage to buildings and their contents, as well as business interruption or the costs associated with additional living expenses. Damage to residential, commercial, industrial, and Kyosai structures are included. Government property; infrastructure such as road and rail networks; water and electric power systems; and oil and gas pipelines are not included.
Initial Japanese reports indicate material damage in the smaller towns and cities nearby the Noto Peninsula, such as Wajima and Suzu. The Mayor of Suzu said that over 90% of the 5,000 homes in the city may have been damaged or destroyed. However, the earthquake spared major economic centers like Tokyo, reducing the loss potential from this event.
CoreLogic Hazard HQ Command Central™ will continue to analyze the damage left in the aftermath of the Mw 7.5 earthquake in Japan. Additional information may be provided if new data is found.
New Year’s Day Earthquake Overview
The earthquake occurred at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km) beneath the Earth’s surface at 9:10 p.m. local time (7:10 a.m. UTC), with an epicenter about 71 miles (115 km) northeast of Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa, and 187 miles (302 km) northwest of Tokyo (Figure 1).
The USGS reported violent ground shaking with intensity of IX on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale in cities closest to the epicenter. Such an intensity is capable of heavy damage. Shaking intensity as high as VI was reported in Kanazawa, the largest city nearest to the epicenter.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 2, the USGS recorded more than 40 strong aftershocks, with intensities ranging from Mw 6.2 to Mw 4.1.
NHK reported on Jan. 2 that fires following the earthquake burned over 100 buildings in central Wajima, which is located on the Hoto Peninsula in the Ishikawa prefecture. The Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency reported a small fire at an industrial facility in Joetsu in the Niigata prefecture following the earthquake, but the fire has since been extinguished.
The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for the coast along the Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures. However, no significant waves were reported as of Jan. 1.
History of Earthquakes in Western Japan
The west coast of Japan experiences far fewer earthquake events than the major subduction zone in the east of the country.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, there have been 30 Mw 6.0 or greater earthquakes within 155 miles (250 km) of the Jan. 1 Mw 7.5 event , according to the USGS. Only three of these events were on or near the Noto Peninsula. The most serious earthquake was a Mw 7.6, which occurred on June 16, 1964. This event destroyed 3,500 homes when it struck 127 miles (205 km) east-northeast of the Jan. 1 Mw 7.5 event.
More recently, a Mw 6.7 earthquake struck just west of the Noto Peninsula at a depth of just 3.1 miles (5 km) on March 25, 2007. According to the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), the earthquake destroyed 476 homes, half-destroyed another 620 homes, and partially damaged nearly 7,000 homes. The EERI noted that engineered structures, those built to withstand significant ground shaking from earthquakes, performed well during the 2007 event. Older wood-framed structures were damaged or destroyed with much more frequency.
Common Building Materials and Building Codes
In Japan, the most common building structure types are wood-frame, reinforced concrete, steel, and composite steel–concrete (SRC). Single-family, residential houses in Japan are predominately timber-frame structures and comprise the largest market share of Japanese building types. Reinforced concrete construction is the most common for residential apartments.
Given the high level of seismic activity in Japan, building codes have been continuously updated since the late 19th century, and building performance with respect to earthquake risk has steadily improved. As a result, the seismic vulnerability of old buildings is high compared to newer buildings, with post-1981 buildings performing much better than pre-1981 construction.
For example, a post-event analysis of the damage state of wooden structures in Nishinomiya after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake (Kobe Earthquake) showed that the percentage of buildings that experienced only slight or no damage was much higher for post-1981 construction (Figure 2). Nearly 97% of the buildings that did collapse were built before 1981.
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