Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Assorted Earthquake/Tsunami Links

I wanted to share a few links related to the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami in the Tohoku region of Japan.

The first comes via Al-Jazeera, a short documentary called Tendenko. It's mostly an interview with one family in the town of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture. Iwate was one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami, yet in this one town survival rates were unusually high, especially among schoolkids. The reason? From the Daily Yomiuri:

Since 2005, the Kamaishi city government has invited disaster management education experts to offer advice, and among the lessons' important points was "tendenko"--a word coined from the city's long history of repeatedly being hit by tsunami.
The word means to "go uphill independently at the time of tsunami caring only for your own safety, not thinking of anyone else, even your family."
On the afternoon of March 11, about 80 percent of the 184 students were on their way home from Kamaishi Primary School due to a reduced-hour schedule toward the end of the semester. Tsunami hit many school zones except on the mountainous side of town, but all the students were safe.

Here's the documentary, in Japanese with English subtitles:

The basic idea behind Tendenko might not seem too earth-shattering, especially to anyone who's listened (or pretended to) to flight announcements before take-off, how you should put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to help anyone else, etc. Yet, as Al-Jazeera puts it, "Tendenko prioritises individual action and self-preservation - and yet such thinking is anathema to Japanese culture." Putting the well-being of the community over the individual seems to be culturally ingrained. Which might explain why the concept of Tendenko isn't readily practiced elsewhere.

Next, here's a clip showing size and location of all earthquakes that happened in the world between January 1 and October 15, 2011. The point here is just to put into perspective the force of nature unleashed on Japan on March 11. Watch the seismic death spirals around the 2:00 mark.

Last week scientists in the US said that the tsunami generated by the earthquake was actually created by the merging of at least two wave fronts. The power of this combined wave was such that even with Japan having the most advanced tsunami warning system in the world it was caught by surprise.

On Monday, Google announced that it had made available on Google Maps Street View more than 44,000 km of 360-degree panoramic imagery of the tsunami-affected Tohoku region. From the Official Google Blog:
A virtual tour via Street View profoundly illustrates how much these natural disasters have transformed these communities. If you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the idyllic countryside change dramatically, becoming cluttered with mountains of rubble and debris as you get closer to the ocean. In the cities, buildings that once stood proud are now empty spaces.
The images can also be viewed via a special website called “Build the Memory,” where you can easily compare before and after shots of the towns changed by these events.

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