By Yuki Matsuoka
Kobe, 25 July 2012 - Some of the most dramatic images of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami came from Sendai City where tsunami waves travelled up to 10 km inland resulting in many deaths, flooding of the airport and the sweeping away of cars and airplanes.
In early July, the Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström, formally welcomed Sendai City as a member of UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign which now has over 1,200 participating local governments.
While the disaster resulted in unprecedented damage to the region, Ms.Emiko Okuyama, Mayor of Sendai City, stated in her letter confirming the city’s wish to participate in the campaign: “However, it is not to say that we were completely unprepared. We could clearly see the benefits of our previous efforts in strengthening buildings and disaster prevention training. This preparation coupled with the ‘Power of the People’, in other words, the bonds between people in their local areas, were instrumental in overcoming this most grave situation.
“We also learned valuable lessons following the disaster through the effectiveness of our interconnectedness with other cities in Japan which promotes disaster preparation and of the need for a system that effectively utilizes assistance from around the world.”
The city officially joined the campaign on 3 July 2012 during a meeting between Ms. Wahlström and the Vice Mayor of Sendai City, Mr. Yukimoto Ito, who said: “As Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region we feel that we must act as a leader in the recovery process. We drafted an early recovery guideline immediately following the disaster, and then formulated our ‘Sendai City Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction Plan’ in November of last year.
“The basic premise of our plan focuses on disaster reduction by comprehensively promoting wide-scale disaster prevention construction and new methods in providing energy. We have made it a goal to strive for recovery as a disaster-resistant and environmental city at a new level.”
Ms. Wahlström, visited Sendai City on 2-4 July 2012 to attend the World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction hosted by the Government of Japan, where Japan reiterated its pledge of over US$ 3 billion to support developing countries in the area of disaster risk reduction mainly through ODA over the next three years, and renewed its commitment to host the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2015 in Japan.
While in Sendai, she met with schoolchildren and visited a debris management site where debris is being categorized into more than 10 items and more than 50% is being recycled. Given the steady progress on debris management in Sendai City, the City will be supporting other neighboring municipalities for their debris management.
Ms. Wahlström said that “it is important to do concrete steps for the implementation of the Children’s Charter. In this context, their activities in Tohoku through “Children’s Community Building Clubs” demonstrated concrete implementation activities, which can be learnt by other parts of the world to include Children’s voices in reconstruction and DRR efforts”.