The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 in Japan

Its position on the Pacific Ocean’s seismically active “Ring of Fire” has given Japan previous sad experience of dealing with earthquakes and their tragic aftermath. The 6.8-magnitude quake that struck Kobe in 1995 caused the loss of 6,400 lives. More disruptive still was the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck the Kanto plain on September 1st 1923. Though considerably weaker than Friday’s tremor it proved particularly devastating, thanks mainly to the resultant firestorms that raged through Tokyo and Yokohama. The Economist’s response to the event, published seven days later, is republished  in part below. Full story link follows.


WORDS very inadequately express the emotions aroused by such a tragedy as that which has occurred this week in Japan. Of all natural phenomena, there are none more awe-inspiring than disturbances of the earth’s surface through the working of unseen forces within. Our instinctive confidence in Mother Earth is shaken when man for a moment finds himself face to face with the elemental forces of the universe. Imaginations dulled to the records of slaughter and destruction laboriously achieved by years of manmade war are staggered by the suddenness and magnitude of the toll exacted in a single afternoon by an “act of God.” In the presence of such a disaster, which so forcefully recalls us to the consciousness of our common humanity, we offer in all humility of spirit our profound and respectful sympathy to the stricken people of Japan.

Full story from The Economist magazine is here.