16 March 2011
After the disaster in Christchurch, we now have massive devastation on the Sendai coastline. What is astounding in this major earthquake is the apparently low casualty rate caused by building failure although the subsequent tsunami has resulted in horrific losses. Unlike the widespread collapse of buildings in more moderate quakes in China and Haiti, compliance with building codes in Japan, Chile and New Zealand has mitigated casualty levels.
Daniel Kaufmann’s thesis is that casualty numbers in earthquakes and mining explosions are directly related to the integrity of related enforcement agencies; that countries that rate well on the World Wide Governance Indicators, suffer less because construction standards and safety measures have not been undermined by corrupted officials. Sadly, good government can ensure good construction, but it cannot cope with mountains of seawater sweeping the coastline.