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The Headline in Japan You Won't Hear About

“Millions saved by excellent engineering and building standards”.

Unless you’ve been hidden in a cave for a while, you’ve surely heard about the recent and major earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. Thousands have died (at this time it’s looking upwards of 20,000) and there’s little doubt that the number will only increase with time as more are found. However most of these deaths appear to be from the tsunami and not from the earthquake. Not that many people died from the earthquake itself. Had there been no tsunami, Japan would’ve largely come unscathed in comparison. In almost any other country the death toll from such a powerful earthquake alone would’ve been massive!! It would most likely have brought the city I live in to ruins!

Which leads me to the headlines you won’t read about: “Millions saved by preventative engineering”, “Millions saved by good building standards”, and so on. Basically how many people’s lives were saved because the Japanese know about the dangers of earthquakes and take proper precautions to survive them?

How many buildings in Japan collapsed due to the earthquake (not the tsunami but the earthquake itself)? Remember, this is one of the top 5 earthquakes ever measured! Other countries have been brought to rubble with far smaller earthquakes.

Downtown Tokyo is still standing, and Tokyo boasts some pretty large buildings! Why is that? How did these large buildings not collapse in one of the world’s largest earthquakes? Because they planned for them! They designed them to sustain large earthquakes One of my favorite videos (shown above) of this shows how much sway the skyscrappers experienced during the earthquake – although it might not look like that much, it’s massive when you consider the scales.

In any case, had they not been properly designed and built, can you imagine the devastation in Tokyo? What would’ve happened if buildings started to collapse? The death toll could’ve easily been in the millions! And you won’t see these headlines anywhere. You only see headlines when something goes wrong, not when prevention saved millions.

It’s the same with a flu pandemic. If a vaccine was released in 1918 before the virus had a chance to kill millions, it would never have made the news and we wouldn’t know about it today.

People are generally only interested when things fail, not when they work. And that’s why you won’t hear or read any headlines about how many millions were saved due to good building codes and building standards in Japan. As important as they are, you just won’t hear about them. But thank god they exist!

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  •     Andy Brice
    · March 23rd, 2011  · 7:59 pm  · Permalink

    The Haiti and Christchurch earthquake were of similar magnitudes. I understand the huge difference in death tolls has a lot to do better New Zealand building regulations. It is also notable that most of the big buildings that collapsed in Christchurch appear to have been old buildings.

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