Is Japan Facing a Perfect Storm? (Sunday, March 13)

As time passes, one better appreciates the scale of the devastation in Japan. When I wrote on the blog yesterday a few hours after the quake hit and the 30-feet high wave tsunami started, “only” a few hundred people were reported dead.

Historical number of deathS in an OECD country
As of Sunday morning (EST) police say this might be as high as 10,000. This would be many more than the major Kobe quake in 1995, where 6,434 people lost their life.
At that time, this was Japan’s worst earthquake since the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923, which claimed 140,000 lives.


Figure A. Top 20 most devastating natural disaster (1970-2010). (CLICK ON THE GRAPH TO ZOOM IN)

But in 1923 risk reduction measures and quake proof construction in Japan were very poor. In recent decades Japan has done an enormous amount of work to make its infrastructure and construction much more resilient to quakes. For many, Japan has the highest level of disaster preparedness in many OECD countries. As such, the number of deaths of the Friday quake is simply astonishing.

Economic impact
It will take weeks to have A more precise estimate of the total direct cost (destruction) and indirect one (nuclear threats, emergency relief, business interruption, stock fall, lost in the tourism industry). As I write this blog, the country might indeed face one of the most severe nuclear threats in moder history as a result of the explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant’s Unit 1 in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture. The priority now is to assure the fusion process is not alternated so no nuclear cloud dissipates. No question, this accident will have serious impact on the nuclear industry worldwide.
I can be contacted at erwannmk@wharton.upenn.edu