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The very recent tragic accident in the Sasago Tunnel in Japan brings memories of our first mission in that country, in the aftermath of the Toyohama Tunnel accident in Furubira Town (Hokkaido, Japan) on February 10, 1996 (Toyohama Tunnel Rockfall).
The collapse of Toyohama tunnel crushed cars and a bus, killing 20 people in 1996. The causes of that failure were very different from the present case, but that’s not the point to be discussed here.
At that time, local authorities and emergency crews were heavily criticized by local population, and internationally, for the lack of “people-skills”, public relations, issue management and an apparent lack of empathy. Shortly after, we received an invitation and we were touring Japan lecturing on disaster communication, crisis management, with particular emphasis on the need to communicate with the families of potential victims and the media. That case study constituted the core of a course we gave then, within the frame of continuing education, at UBC, University of British Columbia.
Reportedly the Sasago tunnel is the worst such accident in Japan since 1996 with at least nine victims by the time we publish this post. We are going to follow very closely the development of the Sasago tunnel accident rescues hoping to learn that there are no more victims and the survivors’ families are treated with compassion, empathy and their needs of information are addressed timely and in respectfully maner.