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Disasters, deaths and the Sendai Framework’s target one: A case of systems failure in Hiroshima Landslide 2014, Japan

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journal contribution
posted on 04.03.2021, 08:49 by NS Ray-Bennett, H Shiroshita
The purpose of this paper is to theoretically propose a complex perspective as the third way to understand disasters which is used to describe the Hiroshima landslide disaster 2014 in Japan. In the first half of the paper the complex perspective is explained in detail with comparison to two conventional perspectives on disasters, i.e. hazard approach and vulnerability approach. According to the complex perspective, deaths in disasters are avoidable. In the second half of the paper, Hiroshima landslide disaster is analyzed in line with the complex perspective. Also, how will Hiroshima not repeat such landslide disaster is suggested.

To develop the case study for Hiroshima, a desk-based literature review, a field site visit and five key informant interviews were conducted by the authors in 2016. The authors’ initial analysis based on newspaper reports indicated a failure in the early warning system, evacuation and severity of the hazard. Based on this, the broader literature on traditional perspectives on risk, vulnerability and complexity were mined to understand and theorize the failure in Hiroshima. Then the interviews were conducted in the city of Hiroshima to analyze the disaster from complex perspective.

The authors demonstrated that the Hiroshima Landslide disaster 2014 and its deaths could be explained by complex perspective. Complex perspective brings us the following suggestions not to repeat landslide disaster in Hiroshima. Political leaders at national and local levels must take up responsibilities to set a “goal” for the disaster management system to “reduce deaths.” Also, governmental and non-governmental organizations should make efforts to engage proactively with community through disaster education or through community awareness program to shift the mind set from hito-goto to jibun-no-koto (their story to our story).

Reducing deaths by disasters is essential for the world thus it is UN’s Sendai Goal One. As most contemporary sciences are based on reductionism, disasters have been described as a combination of the related components such as hazards, vulnerability. Although the great contributions from the reductionism to disaster studies, it has been said that integrated disaster management is needed since the reductionism usually give the partially optimized solution to disaster reduction. This study proposes complex approach to find comparatively total optimized solution to disaster reduction, in particular reducing deaths. Although it is based on merely one case study, this paper describes the possibility of different way to reduce deaths by disasters.



Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 764-785. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-09-2019-0302

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School of Business


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This is a research paper that contributed to the UNDRR's Global Assessment Report 2019