Any other city in the world would have seen buildings flattened and the deaths of tens of thousands. To the best of my knowledge not one person in Tokyo died, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some poor soul fell off a ladder.He's absolutely right. If this quake had struck Los Angeles, much of the city would have been destroyed. Why? First this was one h&^% of an earthquake, but also because American engineering codes are not designed for the preservation of structures at all. As I was told when I was studying structural engineering, American codes are designed so that in a major earthquake the buildings fall down slowly.
Sound engineering, preparation, precaution, and technology saved the day. I could walk home last night secure in the knowledge that my kids, wife, and mother-in-law were completely safe despite experiencing the worst earthquake in Japanese history and the fifth-worst in the world ever.
Does that sound stupid? It isn't really as stupid as it sounds. Buildings in the US are designed for the preservation of life. If a building falls down slowly, the thinking is, then people will have a chance to escape. People live, the building doesn't. Billions of dollars in damage, but a low casualty and death count.
Japan has a much higher standard, both life and structures are supposed to survive.
Because a strong earthquake can be so expensive with the loss of so many structures here, there has been some discussion as to whether the US should adopt Japan's philosophy. But most of the country's earthquake zone buildings were built to the life-only standard.
As with any talk about US, earthquakes, and death and destruction, we must not only consider California, but the bigger fault line: New Madrid--sleeping soundly in the middle of the country. Let's hope it doesn't wake up.