Google Earth Blog

The Kumamoto earthquakes

Google has been pushing out imagery updates almost weekly recently. The latest update includes imagery from Kumamoto, Japan, which suffered a series of large earthquakes in April, 2016. Google has managed to capture aerial imagery not just after the event, but during the event. For example, we can see aerial imagery of the slopes of Mt Aso captured on April 15th, and again on April 16th showing that a large number of landslides took place between the images being captured.

Before and after of multiple landslides on Mt Aso, Japan.

Before and after of a landslides that swept over some houses.

A bridge and road destroyed by a landslide.

Some of the landslides channelled together to produce a mudslide at the bottom:

Mudslide caused by landslides on Mt Aso, Japan.

One hillside didn’t quite collapse, but looks very unsafe.

Large cracks across a hillside that has only slid a little bit.

The earthquakes started with a foreshock on April 14th, which struck the eastern Kumamoto suburb of Mashiki. Google was very quick to respond, as the aerial imagery is captured the following day, April 15th. The largest shock took place on April 15th, at 16:25 UTC, which is April 16th, 01:25 JST, so, after the first Google aerial image and before the second one.

Looking at Mashiki, we can see what looks like tiles missing in the roofs of buildings. It is difficult to tell just how much damage has been done. A look at this article, however, shows that many houses collapsed vertically with their roofs largely intact and the real damage was severe.

Collapsed houses in Mashiki, Japan.

In the city of Kumamoto, a bullet train was derailed, but apparently it was not carrying passengers and nobody was hurt. The imagery is dated 15th April, so it appears it was derailed by the foreshock.

Derailed bullet train.

Kumamoto Castle appears to have suffered some damage from the foreshock and then more serious damage in the main quake. There are some relatively poor quality satellite images from after the main quake.

To see the above locations and many more in Google Earth download this KML file.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

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