Lessons from Japan 2011
On March 11 2011 a 9.03 magnitude earthquake struck the Pacific coast of Tohoku, The earthquake is now referred to as the great East Japan earthquake. It was the strongest earthquake ever to strike Japan and one of the five strongest ever in the world. The tsunami caused by the powerful quake had waves up to 133ft/40.5m high. The waves washed 10 miles inland along some areas. Estimated deaths were over 15,000 with thousands more considered missing. Unfortunately, the earthquake and tsunami caused Japan’s nuclear reactors to meltdown spewing radioactive material into the air and water. It will be years before any accurate accounts of damage and deaths from the meltdown can be calculated. The earthquake was so powerful it shifted the earth’s axis by 4ins/10cm and moved the main island of Japan 8ft/2.4m.
The Earthquake Was the Most Powerful Ever
The first lesson from this disaster and others is that history is no indication of the future. Just because it has never happened before does not mean it will not happen at some point in the future. Preparations were made and reactors built based on probabilities. The 9.03 quake was not in the equation and thus the buildings and reactors could not withstand the powerful quake. The waves where 133 feet high an unimaginable height, that simply swept over anything to include the reactors in its path. Millions of people were displaced without shelter, water, food and medical care. The numbers were overwhelming even for the most prepared among them. Essentially, they had procedures in place that did not come close to being adequate because of the power of the earthquake and tsunami.
Japan has had numerous earthquakes over the years they are expected to happen and they do prepare for them. The buildings in Japan are designed to withstand the shock, and yet it was not enough because no one ever imagined. The lesson of course is to expect the so-called unexpected and if prepared properly logic dictates then nothing is unexpected.
Why build a nuclear reactor that can only withstand an 8.5 or even 9.0-magnitude earthquake when there is always the possibility of a 9.03 or even a 9.5 or 10.0 magnitude. Can no one imagine a 10.0 no one imagined a 9.03 either?
Disasters are devastating and one can never know how much so until one occurs and that is where unfortunately lessons are learned after the fact. However, there are certain things that are expected to happen yet no one seems to prepare for the worst. They hope for the best and essentially “wing” as it were. Instead, people should be preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Governments have a tremendous influence on outcomes. In some societies, the government dictates reaction and public disclosure is not allowed so other countries cannot always learn from the disaster. Transparency is important, so lessons can be learned no matter how it makes the authorities look. Governments sometime are so caught up how they look and public disgrace is to be avoided in some cases over the lives of its citizenry.
Others may have ideas if everyone knew the true magnitude of the situation but hiding behind veils of duplicity and secrets does not allow the world to prepare for the next disaster, possibly a 10.0 earthquake.