One year after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami catastrophe in northern Japan

(Submitted on March 21, 2012)

We have recently observed events marking one year after the tragedy. It might be an appropriate time to ponder about what we can do to minimize both human and material losses caused by natural disasters, if not to prevent them.  


Here, I would like to show you my response to a questionnaire that was requested by a Yokohama city council member in relation to 3/11. One of his questions was something like this: “What do you want Yokohama city municipality to do?”


My comments went something like this, “In order to lessen the severity of earth quake damage caused by collapsing houses and buildings, it is imperative that the latest regulations pertaining to earthquake resistance must be fully implemented especially for houses built before the enforcement of sticker regulations”: that went into effect in 1981 and were further reinforced in 2000 reflecting lessons from the 1995 scale 7 “Hanshin Awaji” earthquake.  


As a matter of fact, this was the second time that I got such a questionnaire from the same city council member; the first one was about one year ago but just before 3/11 and I had replied to him with almost identical comments. There was no feedback that I know of. I wonder what he is going to do this time.


Well, I have my wish list for preventing earthquake and tsunami disaster. For earthquakes, I am longing for the execution of a massive national project which will be able to forecast such disasters one day, hopefully not too far in the distant future. I do not have any specific ideas other than to suggest installing more seismometers in critical areas where moving plates collide with one another, and in areas along fault lines.


For tsunamis, I have heard that one weather forecasting company is planning to install some kind of radar equipment along the coastlines facing the Pacific Ocean in northern Japan to detect tsunami waves; this is based on the fact that a Japanese coast guard vessel’s radar equipment managed to catch tidal waves clearly during 3/11. So, why not a nation-wide implementation of this radar system based on the outcome of the above mentioned project.


Remember, “forewarned is forearmed”, so we have to do whatever we can; but once again we have learned a hard lesson that technology is not at all mighty when compared to the devastating force of nature. We have to find a way to live in harmony with and respect nature. 


It took place at 14:46 on March 11, 2011, in the north easter parts of Japan facing the Pacific Ocean, causing unprecedented human and material losses. 




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