‘Disaster University’ Studies Ways to Minimize Death and Destruction in Asia-Pacific

World

In the critical moments of a catastrophe, old wisdom can be as vital as new technology. After a massive tsunami heaved onto Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, 2011, few things were left standing in the fishing village of Minami-sanriku. Despite the warnings blasted over the town’s loudspeakers, hundreds were killed in neighborhoods that the waves flattened in minutes. Cars were twisted and tossed into trees. But as the waters receded, the ancient Daiou temple, perched on a hill above town, was almost unharmed. Centuries earlier, monks had moved their place of worship to higher ground after a tsunami swept through the area, managing to preserve their legacy — and creating a refuge for homeless villagers generations later.

Coping with the earth’s destructive forces has always been part of the human experience, but it seems to be an ever-bigger job these days. The number of reported natural disasters has steadily…

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