Tsunami evacuation : lessons from the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 11th 2011

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Fraser, S.; Leonard, G.S.; Matsuo, I.; Murakami, H. 2012 Tsunami evacuation : lessons from the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 11th 2011. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2012/17 81 p.

Abstract: The Great East Japan moment magnitude (Mw) 9.0 earthquake occurred at 14:46 (Japanese Standard Time) on March 11th 2011. Significant seabed displacement generated the subsequent tsunami, which caused significant damage in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures. As a result of this event over 19,000 people are dead or missing, with over 295,000 collapsed buildings along 600 km of affected coastline. Reconnaissance-level analysis of evacuation preparedness and actions related to the tsunami has been carried out using semi-structured interviews with local disaster prevention officials and emergency services officials. Interviews were carried out in Taro Town, Kamaishi City, Ofunato City (Iwate Prefecture) and Kesennuma City, Minami-Sanriku Town, Ishinomaki City and Natori City (Miyagi Prefecture). The interviews covered tsunami awareness, observations and response to natural and informal warnings; style and derivation of evacuation maps; official warning timing and dynamics; evacuation timing, mechanisms and issues; and vertical evacuation buildings – availability, designation, public awareness, utilisation, relationship to maps, and post-event review. The report also presents examples of hazard and evacuation maps and signs employed in the Tohoku region. Experiences in Tohoku during this event are relevant to tsunami mitigation activities in the State of Washington and in New Zealand, which co-funded this research. These areas have local earthquake and tsunami risk posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the offshore Hikurangi subduction margin, respectively. This report provides recommendations for further development of tsunami mitigation activities in these areas, based on findings from the interviews. (auth/kc)