I recall a meeting within weeks of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, convened by the current President (then Prime Minister), to seek the views of intellectuals about rebuilding. The most memorable suggestion came from the late Arisen Ahubudu, who began with a reference to Madagascar once being part of Lanka and ended with a proposal to build a wall around the island, adhering to ancient Sri Lankan engineering norms. Luckily, it was not acted upon.
In contrast, some bureaucrat in Japan accepted a harebrained proposal to build a wall to stop tsunamis. That collapsed in the tsunami that came with the Great Tohoku Earthquake. Now another wall is being built. I guess when you are spending other people’s money, it okay to repeat mistakes.
After three decades and nearly $1.6 billion, work on Kamaishi’s great tsunami breakwater was completed three years ago. A mile long, 207 feet deep and jutting nearly 20 feet above the water, the quake-resistant structure made it into the Guinness World Records last year and rekindled fading hopes of revival in this rusting former steel town.
But when a giant tsunami hit Japan’s northeast on March 11, the breakwater largely crumpled under the first 30-foot-high wave, leaving Kamaishi defenseless. Waves deflected from the breakwater are also strongly suspected of having contributed to the 60-foot waves that engulfed communities north of it.