Huge earthquake killed 143,000 with fire whirl melting peoples feet to tarmac

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan was once devastated by an earthquake so vicious it caused huge fire whirls so hot peoples’ feet melted to the tarmac.

The Kantō Plain in the central Japanese island of Honshū was the epicentre of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake on September 1, 1923, the destruction leading to the loss of an estimated 105,000 to 143,000 lives.

But it wasn’t just the trembling earth that caused such a high death toll.

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Lower levels of earthquake protection and development compared to Japan's high modern standards meant cities were more vulnerable to such disasters than they are today.

The quake struck at a terrible time – when people were cooking dinner, lasting no more than 10 minutes.

Large numbers of lit stoves and hot cooking equipment caused fires across the city, breaking out immediately after the tremor hit.

They developed into huge firestorms, with 38,000 people taking shelter in a large building in the centre of the city called the Rikugun Honjo Hifukusho, all burning alive when the building was engulfed by flames.

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The earthquake ruptured water mains across the huge city meaning fire responders couldn’t easily access water taking two days for the blazes to be put out.

To the south of Tokyo, in the mountainous Kanagawa region, huge landslides were triggered by the quake sending rock and earth flowing downhill claiming the lives of some 800 people.

A passenger train and an entire village were dragged downhill and into the ocean.

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Islands of the coast of Honshū were smacked by a 10m high tsunami that destroyed 570,000 homes.

After the quake, false rumours spread across the devastated society that ethnic Koreans had been looting in the chaos.

Horrific acts of violence followed, with large mass murders following in the form of a massacre that claimed the lives of many Koreans.

Government figures claimed 231 lost their lives although independent reviewers said the number likely sat between 6,000 and 10,000 dead.

September 1 is honoured as Disaster Prevention Day by the Japanese government in recognition of the horrors of Kantō.


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