Impressive early survey report on the Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami, Japan

Earthquake-Report came across one of the first and very interesting inspection/research reports from SEEDS Asia, OYO International Corporation and the Kyoto University. A team from these organizations has traveled to the damaged areas and spoke with local people, did looked at which buildings survived the tsunami, how people coped with the situation soon after it happened, etc. A very interesting report.
At the bottom of this excerpt is a link to the full report consisting of 22 pages of text and pictures. We encourage our readers to read it.
Here is the summary which is only a small part of the full report.
We fully support the conclusions of this research team.
All text and images are courtesy this research group.

The survey team went around the several affected city/town in Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture. The following are the damages/problems, needs, and findings by the earthquake and tsunami. Based on these, suggestions and future plan are pointed to conclude the survey.
Damages and Problems
Individual residences and government building: Damages by the earthquake is not much. Most of damages are caused by the tsunami. Therefore, damages are seen in coastal area and plain area.
Industry: Fishery industry is heavily damaged because the tsunami attacked coastal area. Other industry or shops were also damaged.
Isolated area: Because communication system was down, Kamaishi city could not transfer the information to outside area.
Temporary evacuation place: Some of evacuation place worked effectively. But human damages were increased in plain area because the number of evacuation place is few, compared to largeness of area.
Safety confirmation: In local government or evacuation centers, local people are giving information of their safety or information to looking for other persons. These are paper base information. Therefore, it is expected that nobody knows which is new or which is not necessary already.
Amount of rubble: Tsunami is different from earthquake. In case of tsunami, it is almost impossible to understand whose property. But rubble should be demolished for recovery reconstruction.
Community wireless system: In case of big hazards, the system [bousai musen in Japanese] is damaged and it does not work properly.

People’s Needs
Temporary house and spaces: Many people lost their own house. These people are staying evacuation places. Temporary houses are necessary but it is necessary large spaces to build.
Equipments and resources to start works: To start works again, equipments need to be prepared but it takes cost. If people cannot earn money, they cannot survive in emergency situation and their life after the reconstruction.
Job: Job is related to the need mentioned above. Many people lost their jobs. In reconstruction process, it takes much cost to recover their own lives. Therefore, job hunting is one of the most important tasks for affective people.

What Worked Well
Early warning system: The earthquake occurred at 14:46, the tsunami warning was provided at 14:49, and was on the JMA [Japan Meteorological Agency] website at 14:50. The tsunami warning in Japan has two parts: tsunami warning and tsunami advisory. A map is shown in the TV with three different colors, red [major tsunami, with more than 3 m], orange [up to 2 m], and yellow [height about 0.5 m]. The red and orange colors are warning, and yellow one is advisory. The estimated arrival time is also shown in the JMA website. People evacuated to the nearby places, however the height of the tsunami was beyond expectation.
Past earthquake and tsunami and its impacts: The affected area was hit repeatedly by major earthquake and tsunami: on 15th June, 1896, on 3rd March 1933, and also on the 22nd May 1960 Chile earthquake and tsunami. In 1896, more than 22,000 people died, a local culture of “tendenco” emerged from it. In 1896, many people wanted to look for their family, neighbors after the tsunami, and the tsunami arrived meanwhile. This culture has a deep meaning, which is built on the mutual trust. People were taught to be evacuated, with the trust and belief that their family members will also take proper shelter. This culture of “tendenco” saved many people’s lives.
Infrastructure measures: Due to past several events in the same area, infrastructures like sea-dykes were built in several places. The 10 m high, 2.5 km long dyke in Taro, Miyako town in Iwate prefecture is a classic example of this. Although part of the dyke was damaged, and tsunami overflew the 10 m dyke, it surely reduced the impacts of the event. In Kamaishi, in Iwate prefecture, tsunami evacuation building was built with instructions, and people were safe who evacuated above 4th floor.
Evacuation drill and disaster education: Several areas performed regular disaster drills on 3rd of March [the day of 1933 earthquake and tsunami], which was just one week before the disaster. Disaster education was also performed in several schools, and the impact was that in Kamaishi, 5 out of 2,900 school children died. The middle high school students took shelter in the higher areas, along with the nearby elementary school children.
Strong Earthquake risk reduction measures: in spite of a 9 magnitude event, and with intensity 7 [in JMA scale, which is equivalent to XII in MMI], there was insignificant impacts on buildings and infrastructures. Although liquefaction was observed in the soft soil in reclaimed land, the buildings were safe in most cases. The destruction is mostly concentrated in the narrow zone of 4-5 km along the coast. If there were added damages on earthquake, the situation would have been worse.

Key Initial Learning
Linking hard and soft measures [combination of infrastructures and education]: it is of extreme importance that the risk reduction measures need to be locally customized, and there needs to be a balance approach of soft [education, awareness] and hard [infrastructures] measures. Based on the local topography and physical features, this balanced mix is required to be customized.
Early warning system is effective when it is properly perceived: Although there was an early warning issued immediately, people underestimated the height of the tsunami due to repeated occurrences of earthquakes, and a “feel safe” mis-perception prevailed. Proper perception is required to take necessary actions.
1 There would be lots of lessons learned in due course. This part summarizes some of the emerging learning issues, which appeared from the field survey.
Evacuation order and its effectiveness: although the evacuation advisory and evacuation order are issued, people usually take their own judgment. To enhance the proper decision of people, it is required to mention the expected height of the tsunami in the evacuation order and advisory.
Investment in risk reduction pays: This disaster shows that the investment in risk reduction pays to save people’s lives, both in terms of preventive and educative measures. Japan has been a role model for earthquake risk reduction, however, it needs to incorporate more multi-hazard risk reduction measures.
Dissemination of information to future generations: In several areas in the affected region, dissemination of past experiences through storytelling to the school children from the old people. This is considered as an important educational tool. In Natori, there was the memorial stone to explain the past tsunami. For future generation as well as current generation, the experiences this time should be shared.
Customized information sharing: Community FM was working effectively to transfer government information to community. The need of customized information sharing between the affected people and government is very important, and this can be done through need survey and provide need specific programs through radio.
Importance of the government building: If government building is survived, the government can start response and recovery works earlier. In addition, the government can spare spaces for community.
Volunteer coordinator: In case of big disasters, many volunteers come to affected area from outside. Volunteer coordinator is necessary to distribute proper volunteers to proper area. This should be considered as a full-time specialized work, with access and knowledge to different mapping tools and social networking system.
Reconstruction and community development: several areas were completely devastated. Even if disaster did not happen, some of the local governments were in verge of declination, and several villages became marginal villages due to its higher aged population. Keeping this mind, it is necessary to integrate reconstruction and community development with new livelihood concept and looking at the far future, while serving the need of the near future.
Reduction of gap between affected and non-affected people: This time, damages by earthquake is not prominent. So people in higher areas were not affected much, while the whole coastal neighborhood in the same town or village has been destroyed. In the future, it is expected that there would be a gap between the affected and non-affected people. Reconstruction process should include non-affected people as well as affected people in order to make safer and comfortable society cooperatively.
Data back up and preparedness of temporary offices of local government: If local government had data of community, they can start recovery works earlier. Local government should prepare backup data and temporally offices so that they can use when necessary.

Click here for the link to the full report


  1. people of world..give help as much as required..thanking in anticipation..pramod