Why it won't happen in HK

Why it won't happen in HK

Japan's prime minister Naoto Kan has said the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident are the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of the second world war.

Hongkongers have watched the disaster with immense empathy, but thankfully, experts say Hong Kong remains a very safe place because of its location. "The problem causing Japan's many earthquakes is that it's situated on the subduction zones in the Pacific Ocean," says Professor Richard Bernhart Owen, head of the department of geography at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Subduction zones are places where Earth's plates collide. When the edge of one plate pushes beneath the edge of the other, subduction occurs. Most major earthquakes occur in subduction zones around the Pacific Ocean. Japan is on the junction of three continental plates - the Eurasian, Pacific and Philippine Sea.

"Hong Kong is far away from the plate boundaries. It's more than 100 kilometres away," Owen says. "Although there're many faults but they are all inactive and won't cause any real problems for us here."

Professor Chan Lung-sang from the department of earth sciences at the University of Hong Kong says Hong Kong is too far away from Japan to be affected.

"There have been earthquakes around Hong Kong but much weaker than those in Japan or Taiwan," he says.

As for the tsunami caused by the earthquake, Chan says Hong Kong has an advantage in its location. "Hong Kong is protected by surrounding islands including Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Malaysian Peninsula. So the tsunami hasn't affected us." he says.

Many Japanese have fled the area around the explosion-wracked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Experts say that that crisis is also unlikely to threaten Hong Kong. "From the media reports we see, only the outer building structure has exploded, but not the reactor vessels [containing the coolant and reactor core]," says John Leung Kon-chong, associate professor of department of physics at HKU. Leung is also the university's radioactivity protection officer.

"Radioactive materials won't travel very far from this kind of explosion," he says. "It certainly won't drift as far as to Hong Kong. It will only cause problems when the materials reach the stratosphere, the second major layer of the Earth's atmosphere. The only concern for Hong Kong now is the possible contamination of various foods from Japan. That would need to be monitored by the government."

The Hong Kong government says it has increased monitoring of food imported from Japan, especially dairy products, fruit and vegetables, since the nuclear scare.



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