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Predicting earthquakes in Japan is a numbers game

TOKYO -- Anyone who has experienced a major earthquake, such as the Kobe Earthquake that struck western Japan in 1995, or the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, is aware of their frightening power. What is much harder to know is when the next big quake will occur near you.

In seismically active Japan, the government calculates and publishes the odds of a major temblor occurring in any one place using various methods, but the predictions are not always consistent -- with good reason.

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