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UCL-Japan collaboration on disaster management

By Sophie Vinter, on 2 August 2016

Written by Dr. Ryo Torii, Lecturer, UCL Mechanical Engineering

Students taking part in the UCL-Japan Young Challenge present during the symposiumA disaster management symposium held at UCL discussed how experience from the Great East-Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 can be used to build safety systems and resilience against future crises.

Expert speakers, staff and students from both the UK and Japan shared their views of disaster management by presenting their academic, industrial and administrative activities towards building a resilient society against unpredictable disasters.

The event was created in the framework of an academic relationship between UCL and Japan that started 153 years ago, when five samurais came to study here.

Lessons from 2011 disasters

The public symposium, on 28 July, was organised by Professor Shin-Ichi Ohnuma (Institute of Ophthalmology) and Professor Peter Sammonds (Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction).

Tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011A delegation from Fukushima prefecture, which suffered from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant problem, reported the history of their response to the disasters and recovery to date.

A strong emphasis was placed on the importance of local community and dialogue.

Hope for the future

Groups of young students – participants in the 10-day UCL-Japan Young Challenge summer school – also presented their thoughts on disasters.

Approximately 50 British and Japanese students at A-level and equivalent shared experience of intensive academic workshops and lectures, cultural and language exchanges.

They presented what they discussed in a “disaster workshop” a day earlier, demonstrating a great awareness of, and consideration for, future risk.

Continuing relationship

Professor Peter Sammonds presenting during the symposiumThe symposium was followed by a reception, opened by Prof Nick Tyler (Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering), to celebrate the UCL-Japan partnership.

In July 2015, UCL signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fukushima prefecture to facilitate the public understanding of Fukushima and to provide high-level educational opportunities to students in the area.

In March 2016, Fukushima prefecture government hosted 15 students and researchers from UCL and the UCL Academy, including a special visit to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

This recent series of events were to follow that up with a special focus on disasters and the resilience of society. This international relationship will continue and be developed even further for the future as a basis of multifaceted interaction.