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Thursday, 4th August 2016
In General Japan News,

False alarm earthquake alert causes panic

Being located in one of the most tectonically-active places on the planet, Japan is well set up with early alert systems for when earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Despite this, there can be occasions when things don’t go according to plan, and a recent false alarm caused panic in the country.

On Monday (August 1st), users of the Yurekuru disaster warning app, one of the most popular services in Japan, received a message reading “Earthquake! Earthquake!” It came as a result of the Japanese Meteorological Agency sending an alert for a magnitude 9.1 quake, but this was a mistake.

Despite the warning being cancelled only seconds after being sent out by the organisation, the information was still passed on to users of the app. Many of them became anxious and took to Twitter after the expected tremors never occurred.

“When I saw the Yurekuru app screen, I prepared to die,” read a tweet in Japanese from one user. “Yeah okay this was fake but it scared the hell out of me,” said another in English, reported the Guardian.

In trying to explain why the alert was sent, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said it may have been down to lightning hitting a seismograph. These are the instruments that monitor quakes, and as Japan has been hit with thunderstorms this week, it is a plausible explanation.

It was not just the panic that spread that was a problem, however, some services were also suspended as a result of the alert. A number of trains in Tokyo were stopped to ensure that passengers were not put in danger when the expected quake began.

The Yurekuru app increased in popularity in Japan after the 2011 earthquake, which set off a large tsunami. Its operator says that it has been downloaded more than five million times, as people aim to be as prepared as possible for natural disasters.

While earthquakes are regular in Japan, even the strong ones don’t cause too much damage or loss of life due to the infrastructure in place. This includes new buildings being constructed to comply with strict codes that mean they can withstand the force.

Early warning systems, like the Yurekuru app, also help, as they allow people to get to a safe place and carry out the plans they have in place for such occurrences. Hopefully, the false alarm was an anomaly and nobody will face such panic again unnecessarily.

According to Earthquake Track, some 736 quakes have struck Japan in the last year, all ranging in strength. The strongest was a magnitude seven tremor in Kumamoto in April, from which the population is still recovering.