Japan still plagued by aftershocks, another M6.5 strikes east coast Honshu today

by Artemis on August 19, 2011

Ever since the devastating M9.0 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which struck northeastern Japan on the 11th March the area off the eastern coast of Honshu island has been plagued with regular and repeated large aftershocks. The latest of those struck in the last hour or so just off the east coast of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

A preliminary magnitude of 6.8 was given to the quake, but that now seems to have come down to a 6.5 according to the USGS. Shaking from the earthquake was felt as far away as Tokyo and a tsunami alert or watch was issued for a potential 50cm tsunami but that alert has since been withdrawn. According to this excellent piece of mapping work which shows the timeline of quakes and aftershocks since 11th March, the Japan Quake Map project, this was the 1,490th earthquake with a magnitude greater than M4.0 since the Tohoku quake struck.

That’s an astounding number of earthquakes of that intensity over such a short period of time. Geologists and earthquake experts say that the plates around the fault and subduction zone are still settling and adjusting after the massive stress caused by the quake in March.

There are no reports of damage yet from this latest aftershock, and the nuclear authority said it had no impact to their facilities. However you have to think that the repeated shaking of buildings cannot be a good thing the next time a larger quake comes along.

With such a large amount of aftershocks still happening in the area it’s likely that any new Japan quake exposed catastrophe bond would be a very expensive deal to bring to market. There have been a number of multi-peril cat bond transactions which include Japan quake risks since March which does show that the market is willing to accept that risk, but likely at a cost. However, this does show the willingness of investors to accept cat bond and ILS deals which are riskier than many other geographic perils and again displays the growing investor appetite for ILS this year.

The location of this latest quake can be seen in the map below:

M6.5 earthquake off the east coast of Honshu

M6.5 earthquake off the east coast of Honshu

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