Response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2015 Oct 28;373(2053):20140373. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2014.0373.


We revisited the lessons of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Tsunami disaster specifically on the response and impact, and discussed the paradigm shift of Japan's tsunami disaster management policies and the perspectives for reconstruction. Revisiting the modern histories of Tohoku tsunami disasters and pre-2011 tsunami countermeasures, we clarified how Japan's coastal communities have prepared for tsunamis. The discussion mainly focuses on structural measures such as seawalls and breakwaters and non-structural measures of hazard map and evacuation. The responses to the 2011 event are discussed specifically on the tsunami warning system and efforts to identify the tsunami impacts. The nation-wide post-tsunami survey results shed light on the mechanisms of structural destruction, tsunami loads and structural vulnerability to inform structural rehabilitation measures and land-use planning. Remarkable paradigm shifts in designing coastal protection and disaster mitigation measures were introduced, leading with a new concept of potential tsunami levels: Prevention (Level 1) and Mitigation (Level 2) levels according to the level of 'protection'. The seawall is designed with reference to Level 1 tsunami scenario, while comprehensive disaster management measures should refer to Level 2 tsunami for protection of human lives and reducing potential losses and damage. Throughout the case study in Sendai city, the proposed reconstruction plan was evaluated from the tsunami engineering point of view to discuss how the post 2011 paradigm was implemented in coastal communities for future disaster mitigation. The analysis revealed that Sendai city's multiple protection measures for Level 2 tsunami will contribute to a substantial reduction of the tsunami inundation zone and potential losses, combined with an effective tsunami evacuation plan.

Keywords: disaster resilience; post-disaster recovery and reconstruction; the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster; tsunami countermeasure.