Maybe the most interesting part of the day was our visit to the Tsumori Elementary school in Mashiki Town. We stopped there because amidst severe damage to homes in that area, the school remained remarkably intact, even though it was built before the new 1981 seismic code. The school principal, Satoh Kosuke, and his staff were busy cleaning the school, which, of course, was really messed up inside.
We were the first people to stop at the school, including government officials or earthquake experts, and the first people to help them understand the earthquake damage to the school and to answer questions, in general, about what was safe and what was not.
In our opinion, the implications for the USA, and other countries, are grave. For example, there are similarities about what could happen from a rupture of the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco East Bay area. As one team member said, “There was way too much damage in modest homes which look like mine, in neighborhoods which look like mine, and near a fault just like the one near me.”
It was not only old buildings which were damaged. There seems to have been a unique combination of strong ground motion and geotechnique effects, such as liquefaction and landslides. One team member remarked that after 120 earthquake investigations, this was the most residential damage that he had ever seen.
The faulting was much too complicated, much to sophisticated, and treacherous. It seems that all the geologists have been outsmarted. We strongly feel the limitations of our profession … but we must proceed to gain even better understanding.
Once again, Mother Nature, using earthquakes, has fooled the best scientific professionals with her power and variability.
We have a ways to go…