TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japan's capital has a 90 percent chance of being devastated by a major earthquake some time in the next 50 years, according to a study by a government panel.
The study, released earlier this week, marked the latest attempt by scientists to address one of this quake-prone country's most pressing concerns: when the next "Big One" would level one of the world's most densely populated cities.
Tokyo was last hit by a destructive quake in 1923 that toppled buildings, set the city aflame and killed at least 140,000 people -- and experts warn it's overdue for another.
Norihito Umino, a Tohoku University seismologist on the 12-member Earthquake Research Committee, said researchers thought a statistical approach would take some of the guesswork out of predicting the next huge quake.
"We wanted to quantify quake prediction," he told The Associated Press.
They found that as time goes by, the risk of a major magnitude-7 temblor increases: In the next decade, there's only a 30 percent chance; over 30 years, it's 70 percent. The probability rises to 90 percent over 50 years.
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