Sunday 01 May 2011

Disaster Readiness: 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami In Japan

In March 2011, a massive earthquake struck off the coast of Japan east of the Oshika Peninsula in Tōhoku. Within minutes, the quake triggered an unstoppable tsunami that swept through Japan’s northern islands. Both the earthquake and the tsunami caused catastrophic damages to many parts of the regions hit by the disasters. The resultant death toll, which currently exceeded 14,000, was the largest casualty from a single event to hit Japan since World War II. Over 300,000 people had been displaced or evacuated so far from the affected areas. Furthermore, the Fukushima nuclear accident that occurred after the quake had escalated to become the second largest nuclear accident in history. The Japanese government estimated the total cost of the damage from the disasters to be approximately ¥16-25 trillions.

The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami attracted immediate worldwide media attention. Much of the news had rightly been focused on the humanitarian crisis that followed. Some media, however, were quick to criticize Japan on its disaster readiness, citing that the country was ill prepared to defend itself against such disasters. Yet, these critics ignored the fact that Japan was actually one of the few nations in the world most prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis. In fact, if it were not for Japan’s substantive infrastructure which was built to withstand these disasters, the devastation that would have otherwise occurred would likely be substantially worse. Moreover, the relative lack of large-scaled rioting and looting across the country was a testament of the restraint, dignity, and perseverance practiced by the Japanese people, even when they were facing extreme adversities.

Undoubtedly, lessons would be identified someday from this tragic event that could serve to improve a nation’s readiness to deal with catastrophic natural disasters. Notwithstanding this criticism, cynical outsiders who dwelt on unfairly criticizing Japan should first examine their own country’s readiness to deal with similar disasters before blindly asserting that their country would fare better.

By Philip Jong • At 01:01 AM • Under Column • Under World
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