A ‘natural’ disaster is a ratio of one 1 part nature and up to 10 parts ‘social’ on the Karl Marx scale. Nothing could prevent the earthquake in Japan of 9 on the Richter scale, nor the massive Tsunami that followed. But a lot could be done to prevent its effects on the human population. Most of the death toll can be put down to the ‘social’ contribution of living in a capitalist society. Towns built on the coast, in many cases near or even below normal water level. So while many of the high rise buildings in the cities are built to withstand earthquakes, in the regions, inadequate sea walls, poor location and design of dwellings contributed to most deaths. As a result 10s of thousands have perished. Many more may yet perish if the Fukushima nuclear power station built to withstand big earthquakes but not a 10 meter Tsunami suffers a meltdown and contaminates Japan and much of the Northern Hemisphere with nuclear fallout.
Thus on the Karl Marx scale, Christchurch, NZ had a 7.1 quake in September 2010 that caused no deaths. This would be rated as 1/2 since most of the destruction was to buildings and infrastructure and was not serious. However, this was followed by a 6.3 quake in February this year which killed around 200 when two multi-story buildings, and a number of shop frontages crashed into the streets. There was also much more damage to the physical infrastructure and buildings. This quake might rate at 1/4. Much worse and possibly a 1/8 was the Haiti Earthquake of 2009 also a 7.1 but where 230,000 perished due to a history of colonisation that left poorly built dwellings incapable of withstanding even a moderate earthquake even without Tsunamis or meltdowns of nuclear power stations. We have yet to see what total death and destruction has been wrought by the Japanese quake on Japanese society and the wider world.