Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan leading the way in disaster preparations

Terra Daily via AFP: In catastrophe-prone Japan, regularly shaken by earthquakes, dotted with more than 100 volcanoes and swept by typhoons, living with the threat of natural disasters is just a part of life. The memory of past calamities has made Japan's 128 million people and their government better prepared for disaster than most other countries.

Even so, most people realise there are limits to preparing for a mega-disaster such as the massive quake and tsunami that hit on Friday. But zealous safety preparations, regular drills and, crucially, the country's wealth, which allows for expensive quake-proofing of buildings and infrastructure, have saved thousands of lives in recent decades, experts say. "If there is any place in the world ready for a disaster of the scale and scope of this historic calamity, it is Japan," said Stacey White, senior research consultant at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

The catastrophe showed just how many lives can be saved by a reliable warning network, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a strong government response, she said. Toshitaka Katada, a professor at Gunma University's Disaster Social Engineering Laboratory, said Japan had proved that lives could be saved.

"In the past Japan used to be just like today's Southeast Asian countries when disaster struck," he said. "Thousands of people died every year until 50 years ago."…

…Good governance and the rule of law are also seen as crucial. A school or hospital is less likely to collapse if it is well built and has not been weakened because a corrupt official has used shoddy materials to syphon off money, as has happened in other countries in the past. Many lessons were learned from the Kobe quake, in which buildings were flattened, highway overpasses and train tracks uprooted and residents buried….

Satellite image of Japan, via NASA

No comments: