Lessons in managing disasters from Kumamoto
15 June 2016
Author: Hitomi Nakanishi, UC
On the night of 14 April 2016, five years after the devastating 3/11 triple disaster, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the Kumamoto region on the Japanese island of Kyushu. It was caused by a vertical strike-slip fault that runs underneath the area — a vertical rupture where, during an earthquake, two blocks of rock strata slide past each other. The earthquake, initially announced as a main shock, caused 9 deaths and at least 765 injuries. Nobody, including the Japanese government, realised that this was in fact a foreshock. The main shock struck the area two days later.
The second earthquake was magnitude 7.3 and occurred at midnight. Most of the buildings and infrastructure that were damaged by the foreshock were completely destroyed by the main shock. As of 7 June the two shocks had killed a total of 49 people and 1,663 injured, according tothe Cabinet Office. As many as 7,151 houses were completely destroyed and thousands more were partially destroyed. A total of 7,045 people sought shelter in 152 evacuation centres (as of 6 June).
How can we evaluate Japan’s response to the disaster? One method of analysing disaster response is to examine it from the perspective of the disaster management lifecycle. This consists of four stages: the pre-disaster, or the period between disasters; the emergency phase of rescue and relief; the temporary settlement phase; and the long-term recovery phase. In the Kumamoto earthquakes, difficulties during the emergency phase point to a number of lessons to be learned for future disaster management.
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