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100 years ago: Great earthquake in Japan

08 September 2023

September 7th, 1923

IT IS at present impossible to estimate at all accurately the losses which the succession of earthquakes have entailed upon Japan. The first telegrams made it clear that it was among the greatest catastrophes that history has recorded. The dead are said to number half a million, that they cannot be fewer than a quarter of a million seems indubitable. Shock and flame and inundation have all but wiped off the map two of the greatest and busiest cities of the Far East, and many smaller villages. All communications were for a time destroyed, the wounded and the starving could not be aided, nor even their need be made known; and in such a case it is inevitable that pestilence should immediately follow upon the swifter death. Japan has had many of her industries ruined, her naval power has received a very severe blow, her Royal House has suffered losses, her government and finance will be strained to the uttermost. Nor can we forget that among the dead must be counted men and women of our own race, priests and workers in our missions, though some are known to have escaped since they were on vacation in other parts of Japan. As always in such cases, nations have vied keenly with one another in bringing relief, and those which had most cause to fear a powerful neighbour have been the first to offer their aid. But while a million and a half of the survivors are starving and homeless, and while the fires are still raging in Tokyo, all aid that can be given must still be terribly inadequate to the need.

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