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Possible Mechanism for the Tsunami-Related Fires That Occurred at Aonae Harbor on Okushiri Island in the 1993 Hokkaido Nansei-Oki Earthquake

1
Fii Center, Shinshu University, Ueda Campus, 3-15-1 Tokida, Ueda, Nagano 386-8567, Japan
2
Genesis Research Institute, Inc., 4-1-35 Noritake-Shinmachi, Nishi-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 451-0051, Japan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Geosciences 2019, 9(6), 253; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9060253
Received: 28 April 2019 / Revised: 30 May 2019 / Accepted: 31 May 2019 / Published: 5 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interdisciplinary Geosciences Perspectives of Tsunami Volume 2)
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Abstract

In this paper, we investigate the mysterious tsunami fires that occurred at Aonae Harbor on Okushiri Island during the 1993 Hokkaido Nansei-Oki earthquake. Specifically, five fishing boats moored separately from each other in the harbor suddenly caught fire and burned nearly simultaneously with the arrival of the first tsunami wave. However, the ignition mechanism of those fires has, until now, remained largely unknown. At the time the earthquake occurred, an NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Tokyo, Japan) crew that was on the island to report on its scenic natural attractions just happened to capture video footage of those tsunami-related fires. Using that NHK video footage in combination with eyewitness accounts, this study investigates the spatio-temporal process leading to those tsunami-related fires. For example, one witness said, "There was whitish bubbling in the offshore area and I saw five burning fishing boats moored on the seawall being blown about by the strong winds. The burning boats were swept ashore with the tsunami and ignited the gasoline of a car that was rolling in the waves. The fire eventually spread to the center of the Aonae District." The NHK video footage confirmed flames arising from the five fishing boats almost simultaneously and the shimmering white color of the tsunami waters striking the seawall, which were consistent with the eyewitness testimony. Based on these spatio-temporal data, we propose the following hypothetical model for the origin of tsunami fires. Combustible methane gas released from the seabed by the earthquake rose toward the surface, where it became diffused into the seawater and took the form of whitish bubbles. The tsunami strike on the Aonae Harbor seawall resulted in the generation of large electrical potential differences within the seawater mist, which quickly developed sufficient electrical energy to ignite the methane electrostatically. The burning methane bubbles accumulated on the boat decks, which then burned violently. View Full-Text
Keywords: tsunami fire; 1993 Hokkaido Nansei-Oki earthquake; electrostatic ignition; methane bubbles; Okushiri Island; Aonae Harbor tsunami fire; 1993 Hokkaido Nansei-Oki earthquake; electrostatic ignition; methane bubbles; Okushiri Island; Aonae Harbor
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Enomoto, Y.; Yamabe, T.; Sugiura, S.; Kondo, H. Possible Mechanism for the Tsunami-Related Fires That Occurred at Aonae Harbor on Okushiri Island in the 1993 Hokkaido Nansei-Oki Earthquake. Geosciences 2019, 9, 253.

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