2011 has been a bumper year for the large-scale natural environmental disaster; not only the Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake, the Australian Queensland Floods, but now also the Japanese Sendai Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami have wreaked havoc on those affected and spell economic disaster for the future. The Japanese are well-versed in coping with earthquakes; in 1923 the Great Kanto earthquake in Tokyo left over 100,000 dead amidst widespread architectural destruction, and again, in 1995 the Kobe earthquake resulted in over 6,000 dead, 415,000 injured, 100,000 homes devastated and 185,000 homes in need of partial reconstruction. As a direct result of the Kanto and Kobe earthquakes, Japan is one of the countries best placed, architecturally-speaking, to withstand an earthquake of severe magnitude such as that which took place recently at Sendai. The ensuing damage caused by the Tsunami has left thousands homeless and may yet cost Japan its reputation as a centre for industry and a leader in the technological fields as factory production ceases during the chaos and the damage interrupts commercial progress. The short-term problems of supporting the injured, managing a clean water supply, minimising the risk of spreading disease and sending relief to the affected areas aren't the only thing being faced by the Japanese; longer-term issues of re-building the Japanese economy, along with Tokyo's architectural skyline are now looming. When a population is faced with immediate danger, the long-term consequences are usually the last thing on our minds, and yet the position of Japan as one of the most economically prosperous Asian countries has added another dimension to the disaster. Over the past decade, Japan (the world's third largest economy behind China and the US) has been suffering from something of an economic decline.
On March 9, Asgary's team is hosting a seminar, Japan's Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011: Lessons Learnt.
Disasters, although environmentally and socially devastating, can present opportunities for learning and improving, notes Asgary, who led a similar "lessons learnt" seminar following the Haiti earthquake. At the end of the day, they will hold a freewheeling discussion and try to synthesize lessons learned about the Japan disaster, says Asgary. A woman stands in an area devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, Sunday.


RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan (AP) — Through silence and prayers, people across Japan on Sunday remembered the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation one year ago, killing just over 19,000 people and unleashing the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century.
The quake was the strongest recorded in Japan’s history, and set off a tsunami that towered more than 65 feet (20 meters) in some spots along the northeastern coast, destroying tens of thousands of homes and wreaking widespread destruction. Naomi Fujino, a 42-year-old Rikuzentakata resident who lost her father in the tsunami, was in tears recalling last March 11. The tsunami also knocked out the vital cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, causing meltdowns at three reactors and spewing radiation into the air.
A year after the disaster, police and other experts continue to search for the bodies of 3,155 people listed as missing, adding to the sense of loss for mourning relatives. Only two of Japan’s 54 reactors are now running while those shut down for regular inspections undergo special tests to check their ability to withstand similar disasters. The Japanese government has pledged to reduce reliance on nuclear power, which supplied about 30 percent of the nation’s energy needs before the disaster, but says it needs to restart some nuclear plants during the transition period. In Rikuzentakata, 37-year-old Mika Hashikai, who lost both her parents in the tsunami, went around Sunday leaving flowers at the former homes of her friends and neighbors. In the aftermath of such events, Japan placed great emphasis on creating an 'earthquake-proof' rebuild.
What the Japanese Government hadn't banked on was the knock-on effect of the Tsunami, which hit the east coast of Japan with very little warning. Over the next few years Japan will face a barrage of problems; not only will it have to cope with the fallout from agricultural crop damage (waterlogged fields from the Tsunami mean fewer crops, fewer jobs and the added cost of agricultural regeneration plus the high-cost reliance on international imports), the national cost of supporting the architectural re-build, the financial impact of low employment rates as business struggle to cope with damaged office buildings and failing systems and processes, not to mention the un-measurable emotional cost as the population loses friends and family to the disaster.


With the current economic crisis as it is, Japan was in no financial position to manage a large-scale domestic disaster such as the one it is currently facing. The triple whammy that took Japan by surprise underscored the need to plan far beyond the typical disaster scenarios. So he has invited eyewitnesses – journalists, Red Cross experts, government officials – to share their on-the-ground experiences and analysts – an economist and an expert in corporate social responsibility – to talk about the broader implications of the Japan disaster on international economy, trade and ethical corporate behaviour. Speakers will talk about the impact of the disaster on infrastructure, about business ethics issues arising from it, about Canada’s response, CBC’s reporting and lessons for Canada. Most industrial facilities along Japan’s east coast were not planned for earthquakes with a magnitude of nine.
While much of the debris along the tsunami-ravaged coast has been gathered into massive piles, very little rebuilding has begun.
Public opposition to atomic power has grown in the wake of the nuclear disaster, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
Even when they did, their plans rarely factored in a tsunami or a nuclear meltdown or both. And no wonder – British Columbia’s coast is as vulnerable as Japan to earthquakes and tsunamis that could as easily devastate populated areas and flatten an industrial economy.



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