Japan told to expect mega-quake in next 30 years

Japan's Earthquake Research Committee says it's likely a tremor as severe as the one that claimed nearly 16,000 lives in Tōhoku in 2011 could strike again - and soon.

According to the committee's analysis of historical data, an earthquake will probably occur off the Pacific coast of Hokkaido and trigger a tsunami within 30 years.

Hokkaido is in north Japan and is part of the Japanese archipelago, which is one of the most seismically active regions in the world, accounting for one in five quakes over magnitude-6.

In its new report, the committee says there's a 70 percent chance of a magnitude-8 to 8.6 quake striking eastern Hokkaido in the next three decades. They added there's a 7 to 40 percent chance of a magnitude-9 quake within that same timeframe.

Japan's science and technology minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told media he anticipated the report would help local governments to ready themselves better for natural disasters.

"We are hoping this report will help local municipal governments to make necessary preparations and raise households' awareness of disaster risk," he said.

The 2011 earthquake claimed 15,894 lives and cost $337 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in history.