Up to 320,000 people could be killed if an earthquake with the same magnitude as last year would strike off central and western All Japan news, the government announced.
The maximum number of victims would be caused if the magnitude 9 quake would hit in the middle of the night, in winter. The following tsunami would account for 71 percent of the deaths.
The probability of such an event is however extremely low, the government added.
The new forecast is much more dramatic than the previous one, released in 2003, which indicated that an 8.7 magnitude in the same area would kill 24,700 people. A magnitude 9 quake releases about three times more energy than a magnitude 8.7.
The government intends to release next year new earthquake response steps, including how many military personnel and firefighters need to be mobilized in the aftermath of a
Last year’s quake and tsunami killed nearly 16,000 people, while nearly 3,000 are missing, according to official data.