Lessons Learned From the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, Earthquake


  • The International Concrete Abstracts Portal is an ACI led collaboration with leading technical organizations from within the international concrete industry and offers the most comprehensive collection of published concrete abstracts.

International Concrete Abstracts Portal


Title: Lessons Learned From the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, Earthquake

Author(s): Shunsuke Otani

Publication: Special Publication

Volume: 296


Appears on pages(s): 1-20

Keywords: Earthquake, Damage, Non-structural Elements, Reinforced concrete buildings, Seismic design, Seismic retrofit, Seismology, Tsunami

Date: 3/6/2014

The 2011 off the Pacific coast, Tohoku Earthquake (Mw=9.0) was the largest in the history of seismic observation in Japan. Seismology research community did not anticipate the possible occurrence of such a mega earthquake in the area. Main casualties were caused by tsunamis rather than by the collapse of buildings due to ground shaking. Structural engineering could not protect lives of building occupants if the building was buried under tsunami flood; good community planning is essential to mitigate the tsunami disaster in coast areas. Some low-rise reinforced concrete and steel buildings were moved or overturned by tsunami flood. Reinforced concrete structural walls failed by out-of-plane tsunami water pressure; floor slabs were lifted from floor girders by upward water pressure. Peak ground accelerations exceeding 1.0 g (g: acceleration of gravity, 9.81 m/s2 or 386 in./s2) were recorded at more than a dozen strong motion recording stations, but the destructive power of far-field earthquake motions was less for buildings than that of near-field earthquake motions. The seismic vulnerability of existing old buildings should be critically assessed, and vulnerable buildings should be retrofitted.