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Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami hits Japan and other countries are under warning; Concerns about impacts on developing countries rises

An enormous 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on Friday afternoon local time, followed by powerful aftershocks. The earthquake- one of the strongest to hit Japan in at least 100 years- triggered a 10-meter high tsunami along Japan’s north-eastern coastline. The devastation left millions without electricity, many people missing and hundreds of people dead. Some of the nuclear power plants have automatically shut down but fortunately, no radioactive leakage was found.

According to the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the entire Pacific basin, besides mainland United States and Canada, have been issued tsunami warnings. Warnings are in effect for Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Australia and New Zealand were initially on the warning list, but were later removed.

According to Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, "Japan is very well equipped to deal both with the initial tremors caused by an earthquake: buildings are systematically built with allowances for sway so that they are less likely to fall down. Also coastal cities have long had tsunami protection measures in place." However, developing countries in the Asia Pacific region are less equipped and particularly vulnerable to tsunami damage.

Disaster management systems in developing countries need to be more focused on the entire disaster management cycle, including response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness. In particular, I think that more emphasis needs to be put on pre-disaster planning (mitigation and preparedness). Mitigation activities can include actions that reduce the effects of disaster such as building codes and zoning, vulnerability analyses and public education. Preparedness can include emergency training from the national government, to the local level. It is important that processes are set up to facilitate immediate evacuation, in order to reduce the number of fatalities during response. (More on disaster management systems

Hopefully measures are already being taken to ensure awareness and preparedness in case the developing countries under warning are hit with life-threatening tsunamis in the next 24 hours.

GlassFrog blogger, Sherisse 


  1. Absolutely agreed. Pre-emptive messaging and training can mitigate what could develop into castistrophic results.
    Investing in the future (setting expectations)is always cheaper than paying for the mistakes of the past(lack of planning).

  2. The video is astounding, how quickly nature can swallow areas that humans have spent centuries developing.

  3. Empowering local populations through education and providing tangible resources will no doubt facilitate life saving measures when these tragic disasters occur.

  4. The problem is that countries like their foreign aid to go to big showy projects with their name on it. Intangible programs like preparedness for a disaster that might not occur for decades or more -- these are considerably less exciting.
    We feel good when we hear about the number of tents erected in a disaster zone, or the bowls of soup served to the newly-homeless. We need to feel equally good to know that people in a stable, non-catastrophic period are learning about prevention and preparedness... but that's a lot less easy to sell.
    My hunch is that a lot of wisdom about the upheavals of the natural world already exists in these communities, so our job is to leverage this local wisdom with the technologies (e.g. communication, material resources, etc.) available in Canada and other international donors. This would be intelligent foreign aid that respects the dignity of the recipients.