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Forensic investigation of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster: A case study of Rikuzentakata

Tadashi Nakasu (College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand)
Yuichi Ono (Tohoku University – International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), Sendai, Japan)
Wiraporn Pothisiri (College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




Using the forensic investigation (FORIN) approach, the purpose of this paper is to identify the factors that exacerbated the loss of human life in one of the most devastated local municipalities on the coast by 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) disaster.


This paper begins by reviewing the extent of damage to the local municipalities along the Sanriku ria coast, which has a long history of tsunami disasters. Second, the paper compares previous major tsunami events by using a human vulnerability index, and applies this index to detect the city of Rikuzentakata. Third, the paper identifies the root causes of the GEJET disaster in the city. Interview records with disaster victims were used to elucidate the main factors that exacerbated the number of deaths.


The study indicates that the FORIN approach can be effectively applied to identify the target city for this case study and to point to those factors the most exacerbated human sufferings, and also provides many lessons based on research findings and methodologies to support building resilient societies in the future.


This paper indicates FORIN approach as an effective research template by investigating the GEJET disaster.



The International Center for Water Hazard and Risk Management-Public Works Research Institute (ICHARM-PWRI) provided the authors with the opportunity to research the GEJET disaster. The authors were able to develop the FORIN approach through many discussions with different expert researchers and practitioners. The Rachadapisek Sompote Fund for Postdoctoral Fellowship, Chulalongkorn University supported the completion process of this research paper. The authors would like to thank Mr Katsuhito Miyake, Ms Yoko Hagiwara, and Ms Mari Sawai for their insightful advice and discussions during the field survey and also thank Professor Kuniyoshi Takeuchi, the Former Director of ICHARM, and Dr Raya Muttarak from IIASA, for their continuous advice and encouragement. The authors are grateful to the mayor of Rikuzentakata City, and city officers for their support. The authors also extend gratitude to many people who provided assistance in the surveys.


Nakasu, T., Ono, Y. and Pothisiri, W. (2017), "Forensic investigation of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster: A case study of Rikuzentakata", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 298-313.



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