On March 11, 2001, a 23-foot wall of water crashed ashore on Japan’s eastern shore, washing away homes, build- ings, cars, trains and boats. The tsunami killed almost 16,000 people with another 3,600 missing.
This natural disaster led to the failure of the Fukushima Daiichi
Nuclear Power Station cooling system, which engendered a
What folks tend to forget about that natural disaster was that it
was preceded by 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which in fact, triggered
the tsunami that caused the partial meltdown at Fukushima.
As strong as the earthquake was, it actually caused minimum
physical damage in Japan; Tokyo came out of it all almost unscathed.
Being a supercity in one of the most seismically active areas in the
world, Tokyo has been preparing for natural disasters for the past
100 years, including using new technology to keep modern high-rises safe during the worst shocks of a serious earthquake.
On March 11, 2001, James Fink, SIOR, MRICS, senior managing director for Colliers International in Tokyo, was in the city, as he
was for the tense days of aftershocks and nuclear danger.
“The March 11 earthquake basically proved how rigid the
Tokyo infrastructure was,” Fink says. “There was very little earth-
quake damage anywhere. Most of what happened in Japan was
a giant earthquake than in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Everything
is hardened against earthquakes and the buildings performed
This doesn’t mean there weren’t serious issues to confront, only
that his building didn’t fall down on his head. First came the earth-
quake, then tsunami, then nuclear disaster, then electricity short-
“I run a business as well as support clients, and basically you
found yourself working hard on what you thought was the key prob-
lem, while at the same time another major event was unfolding in
front of you,” Fink recalls. “It’s the lack of predictability in a large
scale disaster that most people are not accustomed to.”
As can be expected, Colliers International clients from all over
plans based on “what-if” scenarios, i.e., what if an operation had to
be moved out of harm’s way?
“We spent a lot of time working with people on hypotheticals
even though no company was ready to take immediate action,” Fink
recalls. “That took a lot of education because we were dealing with
the corporate level didn’t have a good grasp of Japanese geography.”
The one thing Fink learned was it is important to have a plan for
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By Steve Bergsman