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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

We all live in a very fragile world

November 11, 2012



Invaluable reference work on damage from March 11 disasters






PRELIMINARY RECONNAISSANCE REPORT OF THE 2011 TOHOKU-CHIHO TAIHEIYO-OKI EARTHQUAKE, edited by the Architectural Institute of Japan. Springer, 2012, 460 pp., $179 (hardcover)

The March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake was notable for the widespread damage caused by seismic activity, the tsunami devastation and the nuclear accident at Fukushima. This reference work, an English translation of the Architectural Institute of Japan's July 2011 report, deals with the first two issues, while acknowledging the difficulty of conducting the survey in areas near the nuclear power plant.

Geared toward professionals such as architects, engineers, geologists, other scientists and those dealing with seismic technology, the book is also accessible to the common, interested reader as roughly half the volume consists of photographs supplemented by graphs and charts.

Some of the most striking photographs include an image of a collapsed wood house with the roof intact in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture; the damage to the exterior wall of an office building due to the damaged internal ceiling; and damage to the pile foundations of an apartment building in Sendai, causing it to lean slightly like the tower in Pisa, Italy.

One photo of collapsed ceiling panels in a Tohoku auditorium is followed by a mention that similar damage occurred in far-away areas such as Kanagawa Prefecture. For example, the Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall was heavily damaged by the earthquake and is due to reopen only in April 2013.

Other photographs reveal the tsunami damage, show how some architectural devices to deal with earthquakes responded to the vibrations, or illustrate specific construction issues, such as a section on reinforced hollow concrete masonry buildings showing two images from Sendai, one building without damage, the other partly collapsed.

Living and working near Tokyo Bay, the graphs on reclamation and liquefaction around the area were highly informative.

Divided into 11 chapters, the book covers all areas of specialized interest, with sections for timber buildings, steel buildings, various kinds of reinforced concrete buildings, nonstructural elements and damage to the soil and foundation. The two appendixes are invaluable for professionals as they contain formulas for seismic and tsunami wave force calculations and information about Japanese building codes.

Educational, impactful and comprehensive, the book is a necessary addition to the professional's bookshelf. For others, it would be a suitable reference work to look through at a library to gain some knowledge of how fragile the constructed world we live in is in the face of nature.

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