Japan Braces for Massive Quake Aftershock

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Japan is still reeling from the effects of last month's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it caused. But scientists in Japan are saying it may not be over yet. They're warning that a massive aftershock--up to magnitude 8--could be on its way.

As the aftershocks from last month's 9.0-magnitude earthquake continue to shake Japan on a daily basis, government scientists are getting worried.

Over the monitors, graphs and printouts at the country's meteorological agency in central Tokyo, hangs the specter of an earthquake that struck near Indonesia in 2004. At that time, an initial 9.1 tremor was followed just three months later by another massive quake—that reached a magnitude of 8.6 and killed more than 1,000 people.

[Keiji Doi, Japan Meteorological Agency]:
"I think, going forward, there's a possibility of an aftershock of around magnitude 8—and we have to prepare for it."

Japan's Meteorological Agency has boosted its quick response center from a skeleton staff of seven before the March 11 quake to now more than three times that number.

A month on from the tremor that sent a tsunami over northeast Japan and kicked off a nuclear crisis, the aftershocks seem to be subsiding. The largest since March 11—a 7.4 quake that struck last week—has been followed by far smaller tremors.

But some experts say a much larger aftershock could strike Japan at any time.

[Keiji Doi, Japan Meteorological Agency]:
"It was an extremely large earthquake—magnitude 9—so it's difficult to think of [the aftershocks] petering out after one or two months. We should expect them to continue for about four or five months, or half a year."

Seismologists worry that if a big aftershock were to strike Japan again—and trigger another tsunami—northeast Japan's already devastated defenses would do nothing to protect the region.

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