On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 occurred in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan’s Tohoku region. The quake shook the ground as far away as western Japan and lasted for several minutes. A half hour later, a tsunami of unprecedented force broke over 650 kilometers of coastline, toppling sea walls and other defenses, flooding more than 500 km2 of land, and washing away entire towns and villages. The devastation left around 20,000 people dead or missing, with most of the deaths caused by drowning. The tsunami leveled 130,000 houses and severely damaged 260,000 more. The areas worst hit were the Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures. This article investigates the ability of the Japan disaster risk management (DRM) system to cope with such megadisaster and to prevent even stronger impacts. Based on a project started in 2011 and ended in 2014, sponsored by the Government of Japan and the World Bank, which collected and analyzed information, data, and evaluations performed by academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, and the private sector, the article explains what worked and what worked less well on March 11, all with the objective of sharing Japan’s knowledge on disaster risk management (DRM) and postdisaster reconstruction with countries vulnerable to disasters.
Keywords: Disaster risk management, risk assessment, megadisasters
Jel Code: Q54, Q58