Building damage characteristics based on surveyed data and fragility curves of the 2011 Great East Japan tsunami

Anawat Suppasri, Erick Mas, Ingrid Charvet, Rashmin Gunasekera, Kentaro Imai, Yo Fukutani, Yoshi Abe, Fumihiko Imamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)


A large amount of buildings was damaged or destroyed by the 2011 Great East Japan tsunami. Numerous field surveys were conducted in order to collect the tsunami inundation extents and building damage data in the affected areas. Therefore, this event provides us with one of the most complete data set among tsunami events in history. In this study, fragility functions are derived using data provided by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation of Japan, with more than 250,000 structures surveyed. The set of data has details on damage level, structural material, number of stories per building and location (town). This information is crucial to the understanding of the causes of building damage, as differences in structural characteristics and building location can be taken into account in the damage probability analysis. Using least squares regression, different sets of fragility curves are derived to demonstrate the influence of structural material, number of stories and coastal topography on building damage levels. The results show a better resistant performance of reinforced concrete and steel buildings over wood or masonry buildings. Also, buildings taller than two stories were confirmed to be much stronger than the buildings of one or two stories. The damage characteristic due to the coastal topography based on limited number of data in town locations is also shortly discussed here. At the same tsunami inundation depth, buildings along the Sanriku ria coast were much greater damaged than buildings from the plain coast in Sendai. The difference in damage states can be explained by the faster flow velocities in the ria coast at the same inundation depth. These findings are key to support better future building damage assessments, land use management and disaster planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-341
Number of pages23
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Mar


  • Building damage
  • Fragility curve
  • The 2011 Great East Japan tsunami


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