On midday, September 1, 1923, the city of Tokyo and its surrounding areas were hit with a magnitude 8.3 earthquake. Just moments after the initial shock, the wind significantly picked up as a typhoon passed off the coast of the Noto Peninsula in Northern Japan.
The storm produced very little rain, however its winds were significant. As most residents were preparing lunch when the earthquake hit, and with open fire as the general cooking method at that time, the shock caused the cooking fires to escape their bounds and grow. The 97 km/h (60 mph) winds of the nearby typhoon spread the flames and created horrifying firestorms. Because the earthquake had caused water mains to break, the fires were not put out until late in the morning on 3 September. The fires were the biggest causes of death. Had the typhoon produced more rain, the death toll of 99,300 would have potentially been much lower and the complete devastation of the city far less.
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The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923: Materials from the Dana and Vera Reynolds Collection A Brown University Library Digital Collection