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 Japan’s latest earthquake could’ve been much worse, a Northeastern expert says, but the country spends money to “keep people safe”

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People walk past burn-out marketplace following earthquake in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. A series of powerful earthquakes in western Japan damaged homes, cars and boats, with officials warning people on Tuesday to stay away from their homes in some areas because of a continuing risk of major quakes and tsunamis. (Kyodo News via AP)

On the first day of 2024, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Japan, killing at least 57 people and destroying thousands of homes. This is not the first time the East Asian nation has weathered such a disaster. Japan has been hit by many powerful earthquakes, including one at 9.0 magnitude in 2011 that led to the island country being hit by tsunami waves and prompted a nuclear incident. But despite this, Japan’s death toll count from earthquakes remains relatively low thanks to the country’s disaster preparation and recovery methods, says Northeastern University professor Daniel Aldrich.

“One of my favorite studies that I did was looking at mortality rates from earthquakes and comparing it to how much governments spent on things like safety nets,” Aldrich said. “There’s a very, very, very high correlation. Countries like Japan spend a lot more of their money on keeping people safe … and are typically better prepared.”

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