The Commonwealth Blog

Is Japan Forgotten in the Wake of Osama's Death?

May 6, 2011 @ 3:27 PM by jzipperer

By John Dangaran

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, have we forgotten about the devastation in Japan? Nearly two months after the disaster, the citizens of Japan are still saddled with the damage and memories of one of the worst catastrophes in recent history.

On March 11 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook the island nation – but its effects were felt around the world. The massive quake prompted a succession of hundreds of aftershocks and tsunami waves that left thousands dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and billions in property damage, and set off a nuclear crisis of an increasingly devastating magnitude.

Centered off Japan’s eastern shores, tsunami waves reached 29.6 meters high while traveling inland as far as six miles. With waves averaging 10 meters, the 6-meter seawalls, built to code, stood no chance against the bombardment they received that Friday afternoon.

As the tragedy continues to unfold, lingering questions still remain: What is the current status in Japan? What are the lasting effects? What does this mean for commerce? How can we take this sobering event and better protect California and other U.S. nuclear power plants?

Two short months after the catastrophe, Bay Area resident and one of the world’s leading voices in earthquake engineering, Kit Miyamoto, structural engineer and CEO of Miyamoto International, will visit The Commonwealth Club on May 19th to speak on Japan’s current status, his eyewitness account of the aftermath, and his company’s disaster relief effort.

Immediately following nature’s attack on Japan’s coastline, the Tokyo Institute of Technology played host to an earthquake engineering conference, in which Miyamoto was called to speak as a key presenter, and later asked to assess the country’s damage. On April 2 Miyamoto International published its 32-page, "2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami Field Investigation Report."  This article evaluated the damage inflicted by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, while also going into detail on eight specific areas along Japan’s northeastern coastline and estimating various consequences endured.

In the report, Miyamoto stated: “The biggest issue that I saw was overconfidence with our current level of engineering knowledge. ... If someone had challenged the norm during the design of the nuclear plant, the meltdown could have been avoided. ... Fortunately, the sophisticated warning system saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Miyamoto International not only specializes in the building and consulting of world-renowned architecture, but also takes special pride in participating in disaster relief efforts through areas of response, reconstruction, and mitigation. It has made its presence known through its response to devastating events in Italy, New Zealand, and most recently, Haiti. In Haiti alone, the company participated in identifying 100,000 of the 400,000 damaged structures as repairable, and it embarked on its Haiti 100,000 Damaged Buildings Repair Program.

Join us Thursday May 19th for our 6 p.m. program with Kit Miyamoto, who will speak about Japan’s present condition and future prospects, and give a first hand account of the aftermath.