Escape now an option as Japan’s tsunami response policy undergoes major shift

06/27/2011
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The tsunami that struck northeast Japan on March 11

TOKYO (majirox news) – Evacuation should become a major option for the country’s response to huge tsunami instead of the current concentration only on building defensive walls, according to a Central Disaster Prevention Council expert panel on Sunday.

Kansai University Prof. Yoshiaki Kawata’s expert panel issued its interim report, which signaled a significant departure from existing policy by recommending evacuation become a pillar of national tsunami response as opposed to the current strategy to try and blockade tidal waves.

The panel drew up responses to two types of tsunami, comparatively small outbreaks that occur frequently and major tsunami breaking out irregularly, deciding that evacuation should be a pillar of response policy in the case of the latter.

“We’re talking of something on an unprecedented scale,” Kawata said. “Something that occurs only once every 50 to 150 years.”

Kawata said Japan needs responses to two different types of tsunami; those that occur frequently, and another for rare, large-scale outbreaks. He added that a comprehensive response was necessary for major disasters such as the massive tsunami that struck the Tohoku Region on March 11.

The panel proposed that all possibilities should be considered when devising response to a major tsunami, including such factors as sediment buildup, the shape of coastal landscapes and analysis of historical documents. Based on the assumption the tsunami will overcome breakwaters and levees, the report urged policies be devised to move residents quickly and smoothly to elevated evacuation points. It also sought urban planning that would ensure evacuation routes and lifelines such as hospitals are located in positions to avoid being damaged by natural disaster.

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