Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Created a ‘Cascading Event,’ Demonstrating Need for Multi-Hazard Approach

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The magnitude 8.9 earthquake off the coast of northern Japan and the tsunami it triggered demonstrate the need for an integrated approach to preparing for, mitigating and responding to extreme events, say researchers at the University at Buffalo, MCEER and the UB Center for GeoHazards Studies, who spoke to media in a briefing Friday on UB’s North Campus.

Video commentary from UB faculty experts is available here:


MCEER is the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research headquartered at UB.

“It’s striking just how complicated these disasters can be,” says Gregory Valentine, PhD, UB geology professor and director of the Center for GeoHazards. Coincidentally, Valentine had planned to fly to Japan on Friday to attend “The First Workshop of Asia-Pacific Region Global Earthquake and Volcanic Eruption Risk Management.”

“We tend to view the disasters from within our own research disciplines, but in fact, numerous disciplines are needed to better prepare for, mitigate and respond to such extreme events,” says Valentine. “You can’t study individual hazards in isolation.”

Gilberto Mosqueda, PhD, UB associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and MCEER researcher, agreed, noting that numerous fires were triggered as the result of the earthquake. Such fires can be caused by the rupturing of utility lines underground and in buildings. He said that while structures have been designed to resist earthquake forces and to resist fires, once shaking occurs — even if the building remains standing — their ability to resist fires may be reduced.

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