The 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

On 11th March 2011, the world became aware of a massive natural disaster, the fallout of an earthquake and a resultant tsunami. As a consequence of this act of God, the nuclear reactors were damaged and the citizens of Japan had to once again encounter the horrors of a nuclear explosion. Every television channel outdid itself to inform the world of the developing situation and the extent of devastation.

There were sights of collapsed buildings and ships pushed up on the shore. Amongst these pictures there was one very remarkable component that accompanied the television reporting of a disaster – there was no chest beating and uncontrolled wailing or other uncontrolled expressions of grief.

In the midst of widespread human losses and damage to prosperities, several other remarkable facets of the Japanese society stood out.

There was complete calm and order amongst the people, there was no looting or grabbing of the relief materials and people displayed a high sense of dignity, grace, tenderness and sacrifice.

When we compare different people and communities in terms of responding to disasters, we get varied degrees of responses. In 2008, Haiti experienced 7 degree quake with an approximate loss of about one lakh persons. In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina resulted in heavy property loss in the USA. In both these cases, the community behaviour was characterized by looting, hooliganism, misbehaviour with women, and murder.

The remarkable qualities observed in the case of Japan and the disturbing happenings in cases of Haiti and USA evoked a sense of doubt in our own conduct; can we as different communities behave in the same high order of conduct as observed in the case of Japan, in the face of any calamity?

In Mumbai’s own case, there were the floods of 26th July 2005, whereby all means of transport (public and private) came to a halt, communications failed, roads were flooded and people were stranded at various locations.

Yet, in the face of such unprecedented hardships, the community behaved in a responsible manner. There were no cases of mass looting or taking undue advantage of the situation. People were exemplary in extending a helping hand to those in need, and cases of personal sharing and sacrifice were quite common.

All of the above begs the question – if such sharing and caring was accomplished without any prior training guidelines, or laid down procedures, how much better and quicker could the community return to normalcy, had  there been in place a guide to behaviour and conduct in an emergency.


This article contains an excerpt from the book on Community Resiliency Indicator (CRI) published by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).


To know more about Community Resiliency Indicator (CRI), click here.