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Classification of Tsunami and Evacuation Areas


On March 11, 2011, a large earthquake that occurred offshore the north-east coast of Japan generated a large tsunami which devastated extensive areas of the Tohoku coastline. Despite Japan being considered a country well prepared for these types of disasters, large casualties were recorded, with numerous discussions amongst the Japanese coastal engineering community ensuing. As a result, two different levels of tsunamis have been proposed and now recognized in Japan, depending on the frequency of such extreme events. The idea that hard measures can protect the lives of inhabitants of coastal areas has been abandoned, and these measures are only considered to be effective in protecting properties against the more frequent but lower magnitude events. Soft measures should always be used to protect against the loss of lives, and to this respect, the authors of the paper propose the introduction of a Classification of Evacuation Areas, to show which of these should be prioritized by residents as they seek to evacuate.

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  1. The “Building Standards Law Enforcement Ordinance”, originally issued in 1950, has been frequently revised. The latest modifications were made on the March 30, 2011. This ordinance does not have any section that indicated that tsunami loads shall be considered when designing normal buildings.


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The authors would like to acknowledge the kind financial contribution of the “Disaster Analysis and Proposal for Rehabilitation Process for the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami” Institute for Research on Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake/Composed Crisis Research Institute from Waseda University Research Initiatives. Two anonymous reviewers also provided comments that helped improve the quality of the paper, and their help is kindly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Ioan Nistor.

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Shibayama, T., Esteban, M., Nistor, I. et al. Classification of Tsunami and Evacuation Areas. Nat Hazards 67, 365–386 (2013).

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  • Tsunamis
  • Evacuation Areas
  • Tsunami awareness
  • Post-tsunami field surveys
  • 2011 Japan Tohoku tsunami