Reconstructing Processes of Risk Awareness/Regional Development at Tsunami Disaster: The Case of Otsuchi-Town before and after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 48
Shin NOZAKA , Waseda University, Japan
In this report, I explain how regional developments changed people`s risk awareness and could add to the damage of disasters. I adopt a case study about Otsuchi-Town (Iwate-Prefecture), which was particularly heavily damaged by the Tsunami disaster in The Great East Japan Earthquake, and where regional developments in the waterfront were strongly prompted before disaster. Before disaster, reclamation of the waterfront and the location of houses, factories, and tall coastal levees for protecting them in the reclamation areas were the main ways of the regional development, because this area had less flatland when industrial conversion occurred and population increased. Otsuchi-town had been damaged by tsunami disasters historically and old inhabitants had the awareness that living in this area was risky (eg. “My house is located at altitude but the 1st floor was flooded.”). But in the process of regional development, this risk awareness changed (eg. "My house has been flooded but now tall levees will protect me. At the worst, I should evacuate to the 2nd floor”).

In the emergency evacuation phase, because big factories were located within a confined geographical area, evacuees rushed to a particular refuge and evacuation routes to the refuge were crowded. People with the converted risk awareness previously described failed to evacuate to the refuge. Now, in the reconstructing phase, for less flatland, in the local governmental reconstructing plan, many of the places of work must be relocated in the waterfront and many of the houses must move to around the mountain. Currently, people are concerned about the risk of landslides.

Conclusion: In the process before and after disaster, regional development changed risk awareness and added to the damage. It`s important to note that developments or ideas that generally reduce risks (levees, lessons learned from past disasters, moving to around the mountain) can add to the damage or bring on new risks.