Skip to main content

Modeling a spatiotemporal distribution of stranded people returning home on foot in the aftermath of a large-scale earthquake


On the day of the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake (2011), all rail services in the Tokyo Metropolitan area were paralyzed, amid substantial confusion. Consequently, over 3 million persons were unable to return home on that day. Some, unable to contact their families, felt uneasy and set out to return home on foot. Main roads were seriously congested with cars and people, and the use of emergency vehicles was also obstructed. In this paper, we construct several models that describe decision-making and behavior of individuals attempting to reach home on foot in the wake of a devastating earthquake. The proposed models are calibrated using data taken from questionnaire surveys and person-trip surveys, addressed to occupants of the Tokyo Metropolitan area. We attempt to simulate the movement of individuals having decided to return home on foot and demonstrate the spatiotemporal distribution of those who might be exposed to city fires on their way home in the context of such an event.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13


  1. Iwata M, Kumagai Y (2002) Study on remaining and stay possibility in CBD during an urban earthquake disaster: case study in the Ginza, Tokyo. J Soc Saf Sci 4:191–200

    Google Scholar 

  2. Kumazawa I (1998) Learning and neural network. Morikita Publishing Co, Tokyo

    Google Scholar 

  3. Lamb S, Walton D (2011) Travel behaviours following the 2007 Gisborne earthquake: evidence for the use of simulation in earthquake research. Int J Emerg Manag 8(1):42–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Health and Labor (MEXT) (2006) Report on physical fitness and athletic ability. MEXT, Tokyo

    Google Scholar 

  5. Nakabayashi I (1985) Study for figuration of damage in a metropolis during an earthquake disaster (4) estimation of difficulty to arrive home from each office. Summ Tech Pap Annu Meet Archit Inst Jpn F:361–362

    Google Scholar 

  6. Nakabayashi I (1992) Development of estimation method on obstructed homeward commuters after earthquake disaster. Compr Urban Stud 35–75

  7. Osaragi T (2009) Estimating spatio-temporal distribution of railroad users and its application to disaster prevention planning. In: Sester M et al (eds) Lecture notes in geoinformation and cartography, advances in GIScience. Springer, Berlin, pp 233–250

  8. Osaragi T, Tanaka S (2011) Simulation model of individual decision making and behavior for returning home after a devastating earthquake. In: The 12th international conference on computers in urban planning and urban management (CUPUM 2011, Lake Louise)

  9. Rosenblatt F (1958) The perceptron: a probabilistic model for information storage and organization in the Brain. Psychol Rev 65(6):386–408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Rosenblatt F (1961) Principles of neurodynamics. Spartan Press, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  11. Rumelhart DE, Hinton GE, Williams RJ (1986) Learning representations by back-propagating errors. Nature 323(9):533–536

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Tanaka S, Osaragi T (2007) Modelling of decision making on returning home after devastating-earthquakes. Proc Geogr Inf Syst As 16:183–186

    Google Scholar 

  13. The Prime Minister’s Central Disaster Management Council (2008) Methodologies for simulation of return-home behaviour (10th), Paper 2, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan

  14. Tokyo Metropolis (2006) Summary on the damage assessment of earthquake directly under Tokyo (Interim report), Tokyo Metropolitan Disaster prevention Planning Committee

  15. Walton D, Lamb S (2009) An experimental investigation of post-earthquake travel behaviours: the effects of severity and initial location. Int J Emerg Manag 6(1):14–32

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Walton D, Lamb S, Dravitzki V (2007) An experimental investigation of the influence of media type on individual perceptions of the severity of earthquake events. Int J Emerg Manag 4(4):630–648

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research is part of an effort supported by a Grant-in-Aid (21310105) from the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Health (MEXT) and a Labor Sciences Research Grant, Scientific Research (B). A portion of this paper was originally presented at the CUPUM conference (Osaragi and Tanaka 2011). The author would like to give his special thanks to Mr. Satoshi Tanaka for computer-based numerical calculations.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Toshihiro Osaragi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Osaragi, T. Modeling a spatiotemporal distribution of stranded people returning home on foot in the aftermath of a large-scale earthquake. Nat Hazards 68, 1385–1398 (2013).

Download citation


  • Decision-making
  • Fire risk
  • Spatiotemporal distribution
  • Person-trip survey
  • Difficulty in returning home
  • Neural network model
  • Simulation model
  • Travel behavior