Response, recovery and social dimensions of the disaster in Japan

Mayumi Sakamoto on left. Credit: FEMA.
Mayumi Sakamoto on left, New Orleans, La., March 3, 2011. Credit: FEMA.

Guest post by Mayumi Sakamoto

As of March 18, the situation is very serious in Fukushima prefecture due to the nuclear power plant problem. The complex after-effects of the tsunami are disturbing the entire S&R (search and rescue) efforts and related disaster response activities, as well as creating problems for economic activity, agriculture, the environment and people’s lives.

DRI brochure for children.

In Fukushima, many people are making amazing efforts, in spite of clear health risks to themselves, in order to prevent the situation from worsening.

The DRI dispatched our expert team on Monday to Miyagi prefecture to support the local government. We will continue our operation for the next several weeks.

So far, the recovery of infrastructures is just amazing. After one week, electricity, water-supply, roads and the banking system are recovering. In terms of resilience of infrastructure I would say we are very resilient.

On the other hand, the many evacuated people are in a severe condition, and these displaced people will face many long-term challenges.

The disaster-affected area in Japan is one of the most well prepared area for tsunami. But planning was based on reasonable estimates which, in this case, nature has exceeded. So how can one be prepared for such massive destruction?

The DRI believes we have to pay keen attention to social impact of the disaster and find a way to establish some framework to analyze it. I am collecting information regarding to this disaster in national level and also trying to establish archives for this disaster. I am also interested in learning about relevant experiences from other post-earthquake/disaster situations to learn about how to address the social impact including many displaced persons.

Mayumi Sakamoto, who holds a Ph.D. from Kyoto University, specializes in disaster recovery assistance (particularly in Aceh during the 2004 tsunami) and international cooperation at Japan’s Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution.

2 thoughts on “Response, recovery and social dimensions of the disaster in Japan

  1. Pingback: Current Items March 9-18 | Living Anthropologically

  2. Marion Pratt


    It is so helpful to hear from a Japanese disaster specialist who is working as she writes! It is very helpful to us, and we appreciate the time you are taking to correspond. The experiences you are going through with the nuclear power situation are going to yield results and lessons learned for the whole world, especially since Japan has been the best prepared to respond to earthquakes and tsunamis.

    Now as to your question about information on disasters, there are actually many places where disaster data is collected. The one we have supported for some time (forgive me if you are already familiar with these, is CRED, the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters This site is the most data-driven/quantitative that I know of.

    There are a lot of other places that have other sorts of disaster information — like the Gender and Disaster network, that houses huge amounts of information on that topic, and ODI’s ALNAP, the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Practice. I can find you all sorts of others depending on what types of info you might need.

    Also, a brand new book came out by Jennifer Hyndman called “Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid After the 2004 Tsunami” Kumarian Press 2011, which could be a very important resource for our conference. It addresses almost exclusively social issues related to that disaster, including a chapter on widowhood, a topic that is hugely underaddressed.

    So enough for now, but feel free to ask for more resources — I am here until pulled onto one of our many response teams here in D.C….



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