Nine Years After the Great East Japan Earthquake


Thu, 04/02/2020 - 23:33

Executive director of the Courtenay Elementary Community School Society, Shawn Thir, gave a presentation in the Courtenay Elementary School library on March 11, the ninth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, on the triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that occurred that day in 2011.

Shawn only returned to Canada in 2016 after having lived in Japan for 23 years, and spoke about his experience during the earthquake and life in the aftermath of the disaster.

The presentation began by showing the first six minutes from the documentary Witness: Disaster in Japan. The quake lasted for six minutes and served as graphic introduction.

Witness: disaster in Japan from andrea ottaviani on Vimeo.

The size of the audience meant that the presentation was more of a discussion interspersed with Shawn's experiences and personal photos.

Presentation in the library
Shawn Thir spoke about the Great East Japan Earthquake and his experience during the disaster.


Crowded trains
Transportation networks were disrupted, leading to crowding inside trains and outside stations.
Empty shelves
Certain food items became scarce.
Downtown Kamaishi
A year and half after the disaster and the cleanup was only getting started. As of March 11, 2020, there were 15,899 deaths, 2,529 people missing, and 3,700+ post-disaster-related deaths

The discussion then turned to disaster preparedness at home. The consensus was that awareness of a major quake in BC was low and that preparation varied by region. For example, the recent quake in Idaho that was felt in Canada was duly reported with an expert noting that "... it’s a good reminder for people living in an earthquake zone that these events strike without warning." However, much of the discussion online tends to center around whether one felt any shaking, and the fear is that the general public won't take earthquake preparedness seriously until they themselves experience an earthquake that causes substantial shaking and damage.

If you are interested in disaster preparedness resources, the Emergency Preparedness Workbook (PDF) by the Comox Valley Regional District and PreparedBC are good places to start.