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Tokyo quake 'could kill 13,000'

Disaster drills are a familiar part of life in big Japanese cities.
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Japan is left to sort out the damage from typhoon Tokage.
Tokyo (Japan)

(CNN) -- A major earthquake in Tokyo could cause up to 13,000 deaths, according to a new report by a government disaster management group.

Maximum damage would occur if a quake of 6.9 magnitude hit near Shinjuku, on the western side of central Tokyo, the report says.

There is a 70 percent chance of a major quake hitting Tokyo within the next 30 years, according to earlier studies.

The last big quake to hit Tokyo was in September 1923, when more than 140,000 people died or went missing in collapsed buildings and subsequent fires.

Ten years ago, in January 1995, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the port city of Kobe near Osaka in western Japan, killing more than 5,000 people and leaving about 26,000 injured. Many thousands more were rendered homeless and the economic cost was put at about $200 billion.

Since then, Japan has stepped up its disaster preparedness and emergency evacuation measures.

Guidelines set up in 1992 are likely to be revised as a result of the latest report, which was compiled by a committee set up by the Japanese Cabinet office's Central Disaster Management Council.

Japanese media reports say the committee looked at 18 disaster scenarios with various epicenters and weather conditions.

It found that a major earthquake could kill 13,000 people and destroy up to 850,000 buildings through fire or collapse, the Asahi Shimbun reports.

As many as 6.5 million commuters could be stranded in Tokyo and its surrounding areas.

The three most devastating scenarios are a 6.9-magnitude quake in western Tokyo, a 7.3-magnitude quake under northern Tokyo Bay, and a big quake in Tokyo's central Kasumigaseki district.

According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the committee is scheduled to submit its final report to the Cabinet's Central Disaster Management Council next year.

The report is also expected to cover the economic impact a major quake would have on distribution and transport networks.

Japan has had a bad run of natural disasters in 2004, with typhoons, landslides, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Torrential rain in June and a series of devastating typhoons from mid-year onwards were matched by eruptions at Mount Asama and earthquakes in September and October.

Japan's worst natural disaster so far this year has been Typhoon Tokage, which killed at least 80 people in late October, with 12 others missing and another 350 people injured.

It was Japan's heaviest toll from a storm since October 1979, when 115 people died or remain unaccounted for after a typhoon.

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