Understanding Disaster Risk: The Role of Science and Technology
Kenji Satake*,, Craig McLean**, and Irasema Alcántara-Ayala***
*Earthquake Research Institute, The University of Tokyo
1-1-1 Yayoi, Bukyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan
**National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Meryland, U.S.A.
***Institute of Geography, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico
“Understanding disaster risk” is the first priority action of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. During the Global Forum on Science and Technology for Disaster Resilience, held in Tokyo in November 2017, one of the working groups focused on this priority action and discussed the key aspects associated with understanding disaster risk. These included root causes and disaster risk drivers, disaster risk data, disaster risk assessment, disaster risk mapping, and collaboration among stakeholders. This paper reviews and illustrates the above topics by using three examples of the most devastating disasters of recent times: the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2011 Great East Japan (Tohoku) Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster. The Indian Ocean tsunami, generated by the gigantic Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (magnitude M 9.1), caused 228,000 casualties from 14 countries because of its unexpected magnitude, the lack of knowledge on tsunamis and absence of an early warning system, and high levels of vulnerable populations, particularly elderly people, children, women, and foreign tourists. The 2010 Haiti earthquake, despite its smaller magnitude of M 7.0, also caused a similar number of casualties because of very high levels of vulnerability and exposure. Particularly relevant was the non-existence of building codes, political instability, extreme poverty, and poor health conditions. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster, caused by the gigantic Tohoku earthquake (M 9.0), produced approximately 22,000 casualties with a large proportion of elderly people, mostly because of wide spread, huge tsunamis. It also triggered the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, which is an example of a natural hazard triggering technological disaster. By examining these cases and based on the discussions carried out during the Forum, the working group adopted five recommendations.
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