Japan Earthquake: Lessons From Disaster...and How to Help

Mar 11, 2011· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
Houses lie flattened after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan. (Photo: Kyodo/Reuters)

The temblor rolled in at 8.9 on the Richter scale. Hundreds are dead. A tsunami swept over coastal cities, wiped out farmlands, and flip-turned tractor trailers as if they were Matchbox cars. Still, after the fourth largest earthquake in the past 100 years, much of Japan remains standing. Not to minimize thousands of individual tragedies and the massive swath of destruction, Japan and its citizens can thank its culture of earthquake prevention for a limited loss of life.

“From seawalls that line stretches of Japan’s coastline, to skyscrapers that sway to absorb earthquakes, to building codes that are among the world’s most rigorous, no country may be better prepared to withstand earthquakes than Japan,” writes the New York Times.

The videos and photos from the aftermath of the Japanese quake look very much like the earthquake/tsunami combo that struck South Asia in 2004—but the loss of life is likely to be far, far less than the 230,000 people that 14 countries lost in that tragedy.

Tsunami-swept cars and airplanes are so many pieces of debris at Sendai Airport, northeastern Japan. (Photo: Kyodo/Reuters)

The Times points out that—aside from the infrastructure—the preparedness and mindset of the Japanese citizens saved a multitude of lives.

Communities along Japan’s coastline, especially in areas that have been hit by tsunamis in the past, tend to be the best prepared. Local authorities can usually contact residents directly through warning systems set up in each home; footpaths and other escape routes leading to higher ground tend to be clearly marked.

Still, Japan is hurting now and it needs you. Here are some ways to extend a helping hand.


Global GivingThe Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund has already collected thousands of dollars of relief aid, and will disperse funds to its partner organizations, the International Medical Corps and Save the Children.

Convoy of Hope—Text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10 to Convoy of Hope's Disaster Response efforts. Standard text message rates apply.


Google People Finder—A simple-to-use tool to help people connect with friends or family members that may have been displaced by the earthquake.


Who knows when and where the next Big One will strike. Why risk not being prepared? Have a look-see at TakePart's guide to saving yourself, or your loved one, or some stranger, during the next seismic event.