Main Navigation

Japan earthquake and tsunami - four years on

While Japan remembers the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the world gathers to prepare for future disasters.

Friday March 6, 2015

Residents in evac centre
Elderly residents of Ostuchi seek shelter in an evacuation centre in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Photo: IFRC/Patrick Fuller

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake, which occurred on 11 March 2011, triggered a tsunami with waves that reached 38 metres and caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than 15,000 people lost their lives.  

Japanese Red Cross was there in the immediate aftermath, providing emergency medical care for survivors. In the following months, Red Cross helped rebuild hospitals, nursery homes, and other vital institutions. More than 133,000 evacuee families received electrical appliances, playgrounds and summer camps were organised for children, and volunteers conducted door-to-door health and psychological welfare checks.  

Coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the earthquake, Japan is hosting a major world conference on disaster risk reduction. Lessons learnt from the earthquake and its recovery operations will inform a global framework for reducing disaster risks.  

The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Sendai from 14-18 March, will explore how to protect lives and prevent major damage during natural and man-made disasters. Government and humanitarian agencies will discuss investments in disaster risk reduction, from international cooperation to national priorities and community-level activities.

The value of disaster risk reduction is starkly evident in Japan. While much progress has been made in overall recovery, there are serious delays in rebuilding communities, and Red Cross continues to support thousands of elderly survivors who still live in temporary housing.  

Japanese Red Cross is preparing for future disasters by providing storage facilities for emergency stocks, and equipment such as generators, cord reels, floodlights, lanterns and portable toilets. Lessons learnt from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant accident are being compiled into a digital archive.  

The last 10 years have seen an increase in the number and strength of disasters worldwide. When the world meets in Japan this month, hopes are high that disaster risk reduction will become a major consideration in urban and economic planning.   

How we helped after the Japan earthquake and tsunami.