Seven years on: learning from the great East Japan earthquake and tsunami

Mar 11, 2018

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March 11 marks seven years since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the north-east coast of Japan, triggering a devastating tsunami. The waves, which reached as high as 30 meters, killed tens of thousands of people and prompted a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant.

The quake was the largest ever in Japan’s history. In addition to the significant loss of lives, half a million people were rendered homeless and forced to take refuge in temporary shelters.

The disaster proved that even a modern, technologically advanced and well-prepared nation can face the forces of nature. It was never really anticipated to have an earthquake that strong in this region of the ocean, according to several reports. The tsunami hit unexpectedly fast, leaving very little time to escape. Moreover, in a country where minor earthquakes occur daily, the gravity of the situation wasn’t initially recognized. Preparedness, however, saved Japan from much worse.

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Schools’ have a central role in teaching young generations to recognize early warning and respond to natural disasters, especially tsunamis, which are difficult to predict and can occur suddenly.

The Government of Japan is partnering with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 18 Asia-Pacific countries to strengthen schools’ preparedness for tsunamis. Preparing for tsunamis, which can attack in minutes, will help schools to be ready for many natural disasters.

The partnership supports schools to assess their disaster risks, design emergency procedures and evacuation plans, and carry out safety drills. It aims at giving children knowledge and skills to save their lives in times of natural disasters.

Together with Tohoku University and Fujitsu Limited, UNDP is operationalizing the Global Centre for Disaster Statistics (GCDS), bringing loss and damage data together for analysis and risk informed planning to mitigate the impact of future disasters.

Through these activities, the partnership with Japan is contributing to building societies that are prepared for major natural disasters aimed towards achieving the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

 

More: Strengthening Schools for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific Region

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