Period covered: 12 March – 31 August 2011
On 11 March 2011 at 05:46 (UTC) Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, depth 24 km, with the epicentre 120 km off its northeastern coast. The earthquake generated a tsunami, with waves reaching as high as 40 meters, devastating coastal communities in 15 prefectures along 700 km, with the most severe damage in three prefectures: Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. As of 23 August, the number of confirmed dead is 15,726, 5,719 were injured and 4,593 are missing or unaccounted for. 90% of the deaths were caused by drowning in the cold winter waters. 82,634 are still in temporary housing. The total displaced population from the affected areas, including the 30 km zone around the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima Daiichi, is estimated to be nearly 400,000. 114,464 houses were completely destroyed, 154,244 houses half destroyed and 539,840 houses partially damaged. Public and industrial infrastructure also suffered massive destruction. This once in a thousand years disaster quickly transformed Japan, a high-income nation and an important supporter of the international community, into a recipient of international relief and recovery aid. It also affected the whole economy and raised questions about nuclear safety in Japan as well as in other countries.
Japan is an island surrounded by the ocean with long and complex coastlines. Geographically, it is one of the nation‟s most vulnerable to earthquake-generated tsunami. Historically, this area has been exposed to a number of tsunami which left scars in both casualties and damages. In 1896, the Meiji Sanriku Earthquake Tsunami resulted in approximately 22,000 casualties and missing people. Though Chile‟s earthquake in 1960 occurred far from Japan, the tsunami killed 142 people in the Tohoku region1. Having learned valuable lessons, the nation had focused on countermeasures for tsunami such as public announcement of tsunami forecasts, improvement of tidal embankments, prevention gates and regular evacuation exercises. Unfortunately, not everything was effective for the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since the earthquake occurred at 14:46, people were at schools, work places and homes leaving families scattered, which complicated the evacuation.
As of 28 March, approximately 200,000 households were left without electricity for days due to a large scale blackout, 360,000 were without gas and 652,000 households were without water supplies. Many were further in the dark due to the destruction of the 2,000 transmission stations for mobile phones