The Earth-Shaking Kumamoto Earthquake

There are several natural disasters that have occurred all over the world for centuries. Horrible events such as tsunamis and earthquake have killed not just thousands but millions of people in total. While these natural disasters cannot necessarily be controlled by humans, there are many mitigation measures taken in order to lessen the possible damages that a nation may attain due to these natural disasters. One of the many countries that experience natural disasters such as earthquake quite frequently is none other than Japan. Due to its location, there are various seismic faults that cause earthquake whenever they move.

While Japan is now used to these tremors that happen recurringly, there were still some earthquakes that proved to be devastating to the nation. One of the most notable ones to date is the Kumamoto Earthquake.

By United States Geological Survey [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Kumamoto Earthquake of 1889

There were two events known as the Kumamoto Earthquake based on the year that it occurred. The first Kumamoto earthquake happened on the 28th of July in the year 1889. Occurring at 11:40 in the evening local time, the tremor was located in the western part of Kumamoto. Also known as the Kinpozan earthquake due to its epicenter being located at the south-eastern foot of Mount Kinpu, the 1889 Kumamoto earthquake generated a magnitude of 6.3.

With a total of 20 casualties, 5 people in Kumamoto city and another 15 in Akita Gun, Kumamoto Prefecture perished during the event. Furthermore, hundreds of houses and even certain portions of Kumamoto Castle was destroyed due to the strong tremors. This event was the first major earthquake to hit Japan after the Seismological Society of Japan had been established in the year 1880. The seismic waves were so strong that they were recorded as far as Potsdam, Germany.

A number of houses suffered fire after the quake transpired at midnight. It was a horrible event as aftershocks were occurring for 5 months. This forced the locals to sleep outdoors as sleeping indoors posed certain threats during an earthquake. Photographs taken from this incident were recognized as the first earthquake damage pictures to be taken in Japan.

The Kumamoto Earthquake of 2016 on a Map

The second and more-well known Kumamoto earthquake is the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes. It was a series of earthquakes that included the main shock of magnitude 7.0. Striking Kumamoto City at 01:25 in the morning Japan Standard Time on the 16th of April in the year 2016. Located in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu Region, Kumamoto City also suffered a foreshock earthquake that had a magnitude 6.2 on the 14th of April of the same year, before the onslaught of the main shock. The main shock struck at a depth of around 10 kilometers, which is equivalent to 6.2 miles, while the foreshock struck at a depth of around 11 kilometers, which is equivalent to 6.8 miles.

The epicenter of the earthquake had the coordinates of 32°46′55.2″ North and 130°43′33.6″ East. It was a strike-slip type of earthquake that produced these intense magnitudes. Basically, the majority of the Kumamoto Prefecture, as well as the Oita Prefecture, were affected by this series of earthquakes. The intensity scale for this incident reached Level IX, which is considered a “Violent” level. There were many casualties that were caused by the quakehit. The foreshock left 9 people dead and 1,108 people injured while the main shock left 41 people dead and 2,021 people injured. In total, there were 50 people who died due to the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes while 3,129 were injured. Not less than 44,000 survivors were also forced to evacuate their homes because of this natural disaster.

Earthquake Foreshock on the 14th of April (Thursday)

By hyolee2 - 投稿者自身による作品, CC 表示-継承 3.0,

The area that experienced the worst effects was the eastern Kumamoto suburb of Mashiki. Several victims died due to this event. This occurred despite the fact that the focus of the foreshock earthquake was located 12 km, which is equivalent to 7.5 miles, under Mount Kinpu to the north-northwest part of the city center of Kumamoto. The tremors were so strong that it was felt as far north as Shimonoseki, which is already located in the south-western part of the islands of Honshu. It was also felt as far south as Kirishima City located in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Following the foreshock, several aftershocks occurred amounting to at least 11. These aftershocks consisted of at least magnitude 4.5 with one even being magnitude 6.0. Within two days, the area experienced no less than 140 aftershocks. The 2016 Kumamoto earthquake was the earliest earthquake registered as a 7 to happen on the island of Kyushu, as registered on the seismic intensity scale of the Japan Meteorological Agency or JMA. This earthquake was officially labeled as “Heisei 28: Kumamoto Earthquake,” also known as “Heisei 28-nen Kumamoto jishin” in Japanese,” by JMA on the 15th of April.

Not less than 9 people perished and an estimated 1,000 more people were injured due to this incident. By the 16th of April, not less than 44,000 people from the hardest-hit areas were forced to evacuate their homes due to damages. 3,000 personnel of the Japan Self-Defense Forces were mobilized under the instructions of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help local authorities with the search and rescue operations as well as recovery efforts.

Earthquake Main Shock on the 16th of April (Saturday)

As if the damages of the foreshock were not enough, the main shock of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake occurred on the 16th of April under Higashi Ward of the city of Kumamoto. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake was caused by the strike-slip faulting at shallow depth. While in the middle of recovering from the earthquake that occurred just two days ago, certain areas in Kumamoto Prefecture suffered additional damages. The tremors were so strong that it was felt and even caused damage as far east as Beppu City located in Oita Prefecture.

Because of the intensity of the earthquake, the tremors were also felt as far away as Busan, North Korea, which is already another country. With an intensity of MMI III, a tsunami was expected to hit the areas along the Yatsushiro Sea and the Ariake Sea. It was forecasted that a wave height of 0.2 meters to 1 meter, which is equivalent to 0.7 foot to 3.3 feet, would hit these areas. Fortunately, this advisory was lifted after less than an hour.

Not less than 35 people perished due to this incident. Furthermore, not less than 2,000 people were also injured due to the damages caused by the earthquake. More than 300 calls were received by the Kumamoto Prefectural Police from citizens who were calling for help. About 100 calls were also received by the Oita Prefectural Police from citizens who were asking for assistance as some of them were trapped or buried under debris. At least 91,700 people were forced to evacuate the affected areas.

15,000 more soldiers from the Japan Self-Defense Forces joined in assisting relief efforts to the victims of the earthquake. By the 18th of April, about 180,000 evacuees have lost their homes and were seeking for shelter. Furthermore, not less than 8 people remained missing due to a landslide that was one of the results of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.

The Damages Caused By the Earthquake

By hyolee2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Naturally, there were several damages that were caused by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. The next Monday was particularly hard for the victims as some of them still could not go to school or work following this devastation. One of the major effects that were caused by the earthquake was the lack of water supply in the entire city of Kumamoto. Furthermore, all residents of Nishihara Village located in Kumamoto Prefecture were advised to evacuate due to the fear of the possibility of a nearby dam collapsing. Kumamoto Airport was also closed to all flights aside from emergency flights. A train also derailed on the Kyushu Shinkansen line due to the earthquake, which led to the line’s suspension for the time being.

Several structures also either caught fire or collapsed as part of the effects of the earthquake. Not less than 1,000 buildings were estimated by government officials to have attained serious damages with 90 of the said buildings destroyed. A hospital located in Kumamoto City that houses 500 beds was also knocked off its foundations. This incident forced all of the patients of the hospital to evacuate the building. A natural gas leak was also a result of the earthquake, which led Saibu Gas to shut down supplies to several homes located in the city.

Another result of the earthquake was several landslides that occurred across the mountains of Kyushu. This resulted in the roads in the area being impassable. Furthermore, Japan National Route 325’s the Great Aso Bridge located in Minamiaso also collapsed into the river of Kurokawa. A photograph was also taken depicting a huge rockslide that blocked the whole four-lane expressway that was near the fallen Great Aso Bridge.

Relief Funds for the Victims of the Earthquake

One of the foundations that have actively supported the reconstruction in the areas that were heavily damaged by the earthquakes is the Nippon Foundation. More than 300 million yen was used as an emergency response to conduct surveys to ensure the basic needs of the victim who require special consideration. This includes young children, disabled people, and elderly citizens. The main purpose of this activity is to provide immediate relief to the victims as well as help them be able to continue to live either in their homes or evacuation centers.

The foundation also provided condolence monies to the victims who had their houses damaged by the earthquake as well as to the families who lost their loved ones due to the incident. An amount of 200,000 yen per household was donated to families whose houses got damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes. This can be claimed upon presenting a certificate as issued by the government. At least 4 billion yen had been donated to more than 22,000 households that were victims of this calamity.

As for the families who have lost their loved ones to the disaster or have their family members missing, consolation money was provided by the foundation. An amount of 100,000 yen per person that was listed either missing or dead was entitled to the living family members. At least 14 million yen had been provided to the families of 148 individuals who perished during the calamity.

There was also financial support for the repairs needed to fix the damages of Kumamoto Castle. Three billion yen was donated by the foundation to help with the repairs needed in order to restore Kumamoto Castle to its original glory. Famed as one of the three must-visit castles in Japan, Kumamoto Castle serves as a landmark in Kumamoto Prefecture. Restoring the castle would also hopefully support the hopes and aspirations of the victims of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes.

Still Recovering in 2017: The Remaining Effects Today

The area that was mostly badly affected was that between Mount Aso and Kumamoto city. Aside from the dozens of people perishing from the incident, several buildings and roads were also damaged or destroyed. Furthermore, landslides also occurred as a result of this series of earthquakes. Currently, a number of tourist attractions located around Aso as well as Kumamoto City remain closed. On the other hand, all places of Kyushu are open to guests.

At present, certain train stations still remain closed or out of services. This includes the Minamiaso Railway between Tateno and Nakamatsu and the JR Hohi Line between Higo-Ozu and Aso. For the latter train station, there are substitute buses that are running in place of the train station. A number of roads located in the area of Aso also remain close though there are detours provided.

The destruction that was caused by the Kumamoto earthquakes is not entirely irreparable. Sadly, lives cannot be given back. Still, the Japanese people remain hopeful of the day that the city of Kumamoto, as well as other affected areas, would be restored to its original glory after some time. Though it may take some time for the victims of this calamity to be able to fully heal, one is hopeful that a day will come that these people would be happy again.