Evacuated people rest at a green house converted as an evacuation center, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Wajima, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan January 2, 2024 Image Credit: Reuters

Japan stands as the undisputed champion in the arena of disaster preparedness, having weathered a litany of natural calamities.

Despite facing an onslaught of disasters and grappling with an unusually high population density, the island nation has managed to keep the casualty count surprisingly low, thanks to its innovative approach, substantial investments, commitment to education, and a keen ability to learn from past mistakes.

Japanese officials have now confirmed that the death toll has climbed to 48 as a result of the recent quake. As emergency workers tirelessly search for individuals feared trapped under the rubble, numerous aftershocks continue to shake the affected region.

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In response to the crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has directed army personnel to assist in the relief effort, despite significant damage to roads impeding their progress.

Kishida’s chief cabinet secretary has issued a cautionary message, urging people to remain vigilant for potential earthquakes in the coming week. Thousands have been evacuated from the affected areas.

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A staff member of Japan Meterological Agency speaks at a press conference in Tokyo Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, following an earthquake. Japan issued tsunami alerts and told people to evacuate seaside areas after a series of strong quakes on its western coastline Monday. (Kyodo News via AP) Image Credit: AP

Commendable preparedness

In the aftermath of the recent 7.5 magnitude earthquake that shook Japan’s western coast, the nation’s commendable preparedness and swift response have taken centre stage.

The quake, centred on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, triggered tsunami alerts that reverberated as far as eastern Russia, underscoring the unpredictable nature of seismic activity.

Japan’s esteemed Meteorological Agency, known for its precision and efficiency, promptly lifted all tsunami advisories along portions of the country’s western coast.

However, nearly 24 hours after the quake, access to the northern part of the secluded Noto Peninsula remains limited, emphasising the challenges faced by rescue teams in this post-disaster scenario.

Japan’s resilience in the face of such calamities is deeply rooted in its geographical reality — resting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region renowned for intense tectonic activity. The nation’s commitment to earthquake preparedness is further evident in the development of one of the world’s most sophisticated tsunami warning systems.

This recent tragedy serves as a poignant reminder of the perpetual threat Japan faces, underscoring the ongoing necessity to enhance resilience and response capabilities.

Customers crouch following an earthquake at a supermarket in Toyama, Japan Sunday, Jan. 1, 2024. Japan issued tsunami alerts and told people to evacuate seaside areas after a series of strong quakes on its western coastline Monday. (Kyodo News via AP) Image Credit: AP

Commitment to safety

As Japan navigates the intricate aftermath of this seismic event, the world observes with admiration at the nation’s steadfast commitment to safeguarding its citizens through comprehensive disaster preparedness measures.

Given the frequency of earthquakes in Japan, it’s noteworthy that all houses are constructed to withstand some level of tremor. Rigorous earthquake-proof standards, mandated by law, apply not only to residences but also to structures such as schools and office buildings.

Reports suggest that around 87% of buildings in Tokyo boast the ability to withstand earthquakes, showcasing the stringent adherence to safety measures.

Structural ingenuity is also at play, with many buildings designed to exhibit flexibility when struck by a tremor. Some structures even utilise materials like Teflon to allow movement with the shock, while others feature bases filled with inflated rubber or fluid, designed to absorb shock.

Tokyo’s iconic Skytree, for instance, stands as a testament to this engineering prowess, constructed to mimic the shape of ancient wooden pagodas that have withstood centuries of earthquakes.

Bracing for impact

This structural resilience not only ensures the safety of citizens but also reflects Japan’s commitment to facing and overcoming the challenges posed by frequent seismic activities.

Most schools in Japan make quake readiness a monthly lesson, guiding students through earthquake drills that include vital safety tactics like ducking beneath desks.

Households in Japan take survival into their own hands, with easily accessible earthquake kits from local drugstores. Packed with essentials like first aid supplies, water, snacks, and tools, these kits are a must-have for any prepared family.

But that's not the only ways. Every smartphone in the country plays guardian with a built-in emergency alert system.

Just seconds before an earthquake or tsunami strikes, this high-tech feature blares into action, warning users to brace themselves. There is a repeating chorus of "Jishin desu! Jishin desu!" until the tremors call it quits.