Japan - EDC Earthquake Case Study


Location & Key Facts


  • Subductive plate boundary - Pacific subducts beneath North American plates
  • Epicentre 70km off the coast of Honshu

Key Facts

  • Lasted 6 minutes
  • Undersea megathrust earthquake
  • Magnitude 9.0Mw
  • Earth shifted on its axis 10-25cm
  • 400km coastline dropped by 0.6m
  • Seabed rose 7m
  • Tsunami waves reached 40m high
  • 125 km2 icebergs broke off in the Antarctic
  • Aftershocks reached 7.0-8.0Mw
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  • 16,000 dead
  • 6000 injured
  • Mass crematoria and death count increased risks of spread of disease
  • 100,000 children affected
  • 2000 children orphaned or lost one parent
  • One elementary school lost 74/108 students and 10/13 staff
  • Reconstruction of infrastructure still taking place 5 years after the earthquake
  • 230,000 vehicles damaged or destroyed


  • £181 billion cost of reconstruction
  • 10% of Japans fishing ports damaged
  • 4.4 million households and thousands of businesses lost energy
  • 11 reactors at Fukishima power plant shut down; 30km evacuation zone developed
  • 3-4 hour power cuts for several weeks
  • 2 oil refineries set on fire
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  • Costly cleanup required for the 25 million tonnes of debris
  • 23 train stations swept away
  • Farmland disrupted by salt water
  • Shares dropped from ¥108 to ¥76 to the $


  • Billions of yen invested into the economy to aid recovery, although reducing debt was a main political aim
  • Movement against nuclear power; safety and regulations became a prime political issue; power plant executives resigned; support foreign arguments against nuclear power


  • 1.5m tsunami wave overwhelmed Midway Atoll, drowing 110,000 nesting birds in a wildlife refuge
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Short Term

  • Warnings from the JMSA
  • Tsunami warning issued 20 minutes prior; many people did not react quick enough and the timing was insufficient
  • Self-Defense Forces sent in to help recover and save lives
  • Many countries (e.g. UK) sent search and rescue teams as well as NGOs
  • Japanese Red Cross gave $1 billion

Long Term

  • 6 days after the quake a road was repaired
  • Mainly recovered in 1 year
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