Supercomputer reduces disaster risk

Supercomputer reduces disaster risk
Yusuke Oishi, a researcher at Fujitsu Laboratories

TOKYO - Japan's massive tsunami roared into the city of Sendai at around 15:53 p.m. on March 11, 2011, leaving devastation in its wake. Seaside houses and farmland were inundated within minutes; more than 15,000 were killed and thousands of others injured.

Reducing disaster risk has since become a major focus for companies. Tohoku University and Fujitsu Laboratories have jointly developed a real-time flood analysis system using Fujitsu's supercomputer, K. Its simulation model quickly calculates the estimated arrival time of tsunamis and the probability and extent of building damage.

The researchers believe the new system will lead to faster disaster warnings, helping people evacuate immediately and thus saving more lives.

When the earthquake struck on March 11, a lack of information on the scale of the incoming tsunami led to a sharp increase in the number of victims. TVs showed the coastal areas in the most danger, along the Pacific coast of Hokkaido and Honshu islands, in red. However, more detailed information -- how far the tsunami could reach and damage inland areas and how much time was left for people to evacuate -- was lacking. As a result, not a few local residents did not take the tsunami danger seriously and failed to evacuate to higher ground.

Precious time

The new system automatically predicts and simulates models of tectonic shifts and sea surface deformation at the time of earthquakes, using relevant data. Then, it performs parallel computations using the supercomputer K to thoroughly estimate the tsunami's effects on areas. The K is capable of 10-quadrillion computations per second. It can figure out how far inland will be affected within 10 minutes of an earthquake.

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