On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the most powerful ever to hit Japan, struck offshore near the northeastern coast. Coincidentally, I was in Tokyo that day, meeting with representatives of the landscape architecture profession in Japan. While reasonably safe from the tsunami and the worst impacts of the earthquake, it was an experience I will never forget. My deepest sympathy goes out to the Japanese people as they struggle to recover from this terrible tragedy.
The massive quake created a tsunami or tidal wave that quickly overcame Japan’s system of sea wall protections. The Japanese police estimate more than 10,000 died. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the earthquake, tsunami, and damage to a number of nuclear power plants, was the “worst crisis since World War II.”
According to Nikkei, housing damage has been massive. In Iwate Prefecture alone, about 5,000 houses in Rikuzentakata and 7,200 houses in Yamada were submerged by the quake-induced tsunami. The local government says one town center was almost entirely swept away by the rushing torrents.
More than 350,000 residents have been made homeless by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant failures. In total, some 530,000 people have been evacuated to date.
While Japan has the world’s 3rd largest economy, advanced earthquake-proof building technology, as well as well-laid plans to deal with disasters, the scale of this disaster is expected to overwhelm local authorities. Many police, fire, and medical buildings in the region have been badly damaged.
Over the long-term, Japanese landscape architects and engineers may also collaborate and share best practices with international experts in an effort to devise new sea wall strategies that can mitigate even the worst tsunami. In the interim, ASLA is also reaching out to the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) to identify areas where ASLA members can aid international recovery efforts.
In the meantime, ASLA encourages landscape architects to offer funds in support of Japanese relief efforts.
– Jonathan Mueller, FASLA, ASLA President
Image credit: Kyodo News via Reuters