Call for action on Safe Oceans on 10th anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami


Denis McClean

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Tsumami Evacuation tower in Sendai
A newly built tsunami evacuation tower near Sendai, the epicentre of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

GENEVA, 11 March 2021 – The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, today marked the tragic loss of life in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on 11 March, 2011, with a call to scale up tsunami preparedness in vulnerable coastal communities.

“Today is a day of solemn remembrance for over 18,400 people who are dead or missing as a result of that terrible event ten years ago; a tragedy which taught us some harsh lessons about how to manage disaster risk in a country which is renowned for its culture of disaster preparedness and experience of such events.

“A swarm of earthquakes off the coast of New Zealand last week followed by a tsunami alert for many of the Pacific Islands was a further reminder of how real the tsunami threat is around the Pacific’s Ring of Fire. The Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and other seas are also vulnerable.

“This anniversary is an appropriate moment to draw attention to the fact that 680 million people live below ten metres above sea-level putting them at risk from the deadliest of all sudden onset disasters which has claimed over 260,000 lives in some 50 events over the last 25 years.

“It is important that UN Member States include tsunami preparedness as part of their efforts to deliver on the Safe Ocean outcome of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development which gets underway this year.

“Significant work has already been done by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) and warning system operators to raise public awareness of this risk. Given population growth and how easy it is to forget past tragedies it is important that this effort is scaled up over the next decade.

“Communities that know how to respond to the signs of a tsunami also understand better the life-saving behaviors necessary to survive extreme weather events such as floods and storms. They are also better informed about evacuation routes and shelters when warnings are issued by national disaster management agencies and national weather stations.”

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