Japan celebrates the achievements of pioneers in tsunami risk reduction
Ahead of this year’s World Tsunami Awareness Day (WTAD) on 5 November, three winners of the 2020 Hamaguchi Award were announced by the International Promotion Committee for Tsunami/Coastal Disaster Resilience Technology.
Awarded by Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, this year’s winners are Dr. Fumihiko Imamura, Professor of Tsunami Engineering and Director of the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University, Japan, Dr. Costas Synolakis, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Southern California, USA, and the Aceh Tsunami Museum in Indonesia.
The Hamaguchi Award is an international award given to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the enhancement of the resilience of coastal communities against tsunamis, storm surge and other coastal hazards.
The award was established in 2016, commemorating the designation of the 5th of November as World Tsunami Awareness Day, a UN-observed international day. The award is named after Mr. Hamaguchi Goryo, a Japanese local leader who on 5 November 1854, protected and saved villagers from a tsunami by setting fire to his rice sheaves to warn people that a tsunami was coming following an earthquake.
At the award ceremony held on 4 November in Tokyo, H.E. Mr. Hideo Onishi, Japan’s State Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, acknowledged the awardees by stating “you have won this honourable award for your significant achievements in research and activities to protect people from tsunami disasters. I once again would like to pay my heartfelt respect and gratitude to all your achievements in Japan and overseas”.
Also present at the ceremony was Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, a Japanese parliamentarian who is also the Secretary-General of the governing Liberal Democratic Party and a leading advocate for World Tsunami Awareness Day, who said:
“I pledge – that we will maintain our awareness, and exert our utmost efforts, in promoting disaster risk reduction for tsunamis and storm surges, inheriting the spirit of Mr. Goryo Hamaguchi”.
Following Mr. Nikai, a Japanese parliamentarian Mr. Teru Fukui, commended Mr. Nikai’s on his dedication and leadership that led to the establishment of World Tsunami Awareness Day.
The Chairperson of the Selection Committee on the Hamaguchi Award, Prof. Yoshiaki Kawata, Director of Research Center for Societal Safety Sciences at Kansai University and Executive Director of Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institute, Japan, said that the awardees were selected in recognition of their efforts and achievements that met the purpose of this international award, and introduced their work as follows:
- Professor Fumihiko Imamura conducted research on tsunami disaster risk reduction, mitigation technology, tsunami numerical analysis, and tsunami damage surveys for over thirty years. He also supported and promoted disaster prevention awareness raising activities related to World Tsunami Awareness Day, including by presenting world tsunami risk assessments that cover the past 400 years.
- In the late 1980s, Professor Synolakis published his seminal analytical solution for the run up of solitary waves on a sloping beach. The MOST (Method Of Splitting Tsunami) model was developed and is now the standard operational tsunami inundation model and is employed worldwide. Recently, in addition to leading the tsunami field survey and educating and inspiring a generation of coastal engineers, Professor Synolakis is working on raising the public’s awareness of tsunamis through easy-to understand educational media.
-The Aceh Tsunami Museum was established as a reminder of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as well as an educational center for disaster mitigation. The museum has worked hard to raise awareness among the younger generations and has educated 600 disaster mitigation campaigners, from 600 junior high schools, on disaster risk reduction.
Emphasising the importance of education to disaster prevention, Professor Synolakis, who participated through video, said: “If I have learned something from my 35 year-experience in studying tsunamis, in different parts of the world, is that what really works in saving lives is education, education, education.”
Ms. Hafnidar, Head of the Aceh Tsunami Museum, gave a tour of the museum in her video message, expressed her gratitude for the award:
“A million thanks to the committee of the Hamaguchi Awards, and all the people who supported us to be a winner. Hopefully, the museum can be a partner to all of the people in the world to learn disaster education,” said Ms. Hafnidar.
Professor Imamura, who was present at the ceremony concluded his presentation by saying:
“Tsunamis can occur for various reasons other than earthquakes of course, however, there is a certain amount of time after the occurrence for a tsunami to reach us. So if you gain a deeper understanding of tsunamis and take appropriate evacuation actions, it is possible to reduce human casualties zero”.