Japan’s largest earthquake (8.6) in 140 years has triggered a tsunami with waves up to 10 metres which have caused widespread inundation of coastal towns and ports across Northern Japan. The massive quake struck in the early afternoon and immediately a Tsunami warning was issued. A short time afterwards tsunami waves ranging to 10 metres impacted coastal towns and port cities in Northern Japan. Vision broadcast across the globe showed boats, cars, villages, towns and an airport being inundated by a surge carrying large amounts of debris.
Early reports estimate that more than 1,000 people may have been lost, with vision shows cars being swept from roads and bridges, boats and ships crushed against bridges, and reports of whole trains being missing. Many coastal villages have been stripped of houses in scenes reminiscent of the Asian Tsunami of 2004 which killed 280,000 people.
ILS has made contact with the headquarters of the Japanese Lifesaving Association in Tokyo, and whilst startled by the severe quake they are safe and busy attempting to establish contact with their members in the affected coastal regions. JLA has a proud history of lifesaving development across Japan with over 61 clubs and 4,000 lifesaving members.
A tsunami warning has been issued for countries across the Pacific including Philippines, Indonesia, Quam, Hawaii and the west coast of the US. Reports of damage are now coming in from the US and Mexico. Countries as far away as Chile are on Tsunami watch. Ironically it is just over 12 months since a large earthquake in Chile triggered a Tsunami that impacted the Chilean coastline.
Tsunami warnings were issued across the Pacific and large scale precautionary evacuations in took place in Hawaii and Japan.
The ILS Position Statement on Aquatic Disasters (http://www.ilsf.org/about/position-statements) reinforces the principles of prevention, rescue, health management and debriefing. ILS supports the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and members play varying roles in concert with their nation’s disaster risk reduction and management plans. From time to time ILS members offer support and equipment to other nations following disaster such as this.
Our thoughts and wishes are with the people of Japan, the leadership and members of the Japanese Lifesaving Association. Japan has a strong national and regional emergency management plans for disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami. We trust that this preparation and planning will have reduced the loss of life during this significant event.
In a message of support to the JLA sent via ILS Board Member Ms Chiharu Aizawa, the ILS President Dr Steve Beerman reminded us that “The Japanese population have been well prepared for earthquake and aquatic disasters with knowledge, skills and attitudes that save lives. The Japan Lifesaving Association has played a role in educating your population on aquatic risk management, aquatic rescue, leadership and first aid skills. Without your organizations leadership and teaching, the drowning mortality may have been worse”.
The international drowning prevention community will meet in 7 weeks time in Vietnam at the ILS World Conference on Drowning Prevention 10-13 May 2011. Aquatic Disasters is a key theme at this global event. Research investigating survival outcomes from the Aceh Tsunami in 2004, as well as a situational report from the recent Tsunami in the Mentawai islands in Indonesia in 2010 will feature.
ILS will continue to monitor the situation, the impact on other nations and wellbeing of members of the Japanese Lifesaving Association.