‘Staggering magnitude’ of Japan earthquake, says Durham professor

Professor Bob Holdsworth

Professor Bob Holdsworth

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THE magnitude of the earthquake in Japan was a thousand times more powerful than the recent quake in New Zealand, according to a Durham University expert.

The tsunami which followed could also affect islands such as Hawaii and reach as far as South America, said Bob Holdsworth, Professor of Structural Geology, in the Department of Earth Sciences.

Professor Holdsworth said: “Japan is one of the most dangerous seismically active regions in the world and the constant threat of earthquakes and associated hazards such as tsunami – itself a Japanese word meaning ‘harbour wave’ – has strongly shaped the development of Japanese culture and infrastructure over many hundreds of years.

“The magnitude of this event is staggering – it is almost a thousand times more powerful than the recent Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand and nearly one hundred times more powerful that the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It is slightly smaller than the Sumatra earthquake of 2004.

“These last two events combined killed over 500,000 people.

“Yet of all the countries in the world it could strike, Japan is amongst the very best prepared. Had this not been the case the effects of this earthquake would have been even more devastating.

“The greatest amount of damage and loss of life will come from the effects of the tsunami.”