2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami

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The epicenter (map)

The 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami was a disaster which took place in 2011. See wikipedia:2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami for details. OpenStreetMap has good map data in this region, and the Humanitarian OSM Team worked to further improve the coverage, and update our maps with some post-disaster information. An OpenStreetMap-based disaster information sharing site sinsai.info was set up.

Disaster Overview

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (東北地方太平洋沖地震 Tōhoku Chihō Taiheiyō-oki Jishin) was an earthquake that stuck the coast of Pacific Ocean Sanriku at about 14:46 March 11, 2011.

OpenStreetMap Resources for use by activities on the ground

Browse the OSM map of Northern Japan

Realtime situational mapping

  • sinsai.info Ushahidi Site - Current status/hazards/needs on a map. Various reporting channels including text messages (using OpenStreetMap!)
  • ESRI's latest news map - Similar idea. Geoloacted YouTube movies, tweets, and photos on esri's platform.


Within Japan

The OSM Japan community is also coordinating through the OpenStreetMap Japan - Crisis Mapping Project.

Outside Japan

For help using OpenStreetMap, or other requests/information:

  • Check the wikipage of HOT (the Humanitarian OSM Team), or send a email to the official HOT contact address: hotosm [AT] gmail.com
  • HOT mailing list - for public discussion
  • IRC chatrooms include a #osm-ja channel (logged) and a #hot channel (though the general #osm channel is always busier)
  • See Contact for other OpenStreetMap channels

Ways to help mapping

Note:This is a brief overview. See mapping coordination and data sources for details.

Help mapping from afar

There are several ways you can help from a remote place. If there is anything you can do, please help. However, please note that OpenStreetMap is operated under an open data license, so you cannot incorporate data from incompatible licensing.

Tracing imagery

Satellite imagery are used as source data from which roads and buildings are traced (digitized, by clicking on the image) and incorporated into the digital map.

Importing data

Public data, and data provided for OpenStreetMap are imported into the OpenStreetMap database. This will import data for a vast area in a large batch, so this requires coordination among mappers and communication to discuss tagging.

Copying coordinate data

If there are data that comes with coordinate information, that can be written to OpenStreetMap. Make sure that the license scheme of the data source is compatible. Data sources confirmed to be compatible are follows:

Mapping on the ground

To avoid confusion, at the time of this writing (Mar. 21, 2011), gathering data and mapping on the ground (e.g. moving around with a GPS device) by people other than rescue professionals or people living in the area, is not recommended.

What to map

Note:This is a brief overview. See mapping coordination and data sources for details.

Base map

  • Base map information, such as road and buildings, has not been mapped sufficiently in the north-eastern area of Japan. Please consider helping data entry in the base map. Much traceable imagery is available.
  • Importable (digital) data is also provided. Please consider helping with this activity if possible.

Post disaster map

  • Damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami has to be mapped. If you have experience in crisis mapping, please help mapping things that should be mapped, based on your experience.
  • However, situation is changing rapidly and the kind of information that is required must be considered with experts in the field. The japanese OpenStreetMap community is discussing with HOT to set up policies. Please wait for a while.

Other Ways to Help


We are currently recruiting translators. There are many documents that need translating. Even translating one of them would be a big contribution.

Mapping Applications

Developing means to utilize OpenStreetMap (such as creating applications, etc.) or localizing(translating) existing applications, are very helpful. Applications well thought for the use on the ground are especially appreciated. At this time, the following forms of applications are being created, or planned. For any other ideas, your imagination is the limit.

For beginners to OpenStreetMap (New to mapping?)

Thank you for showing your interest in helping the mapping activities of OpenStreetMap.

First step guide

Please read:

  • About
  • Beginners' guide. It explains about gathering data with a GPS device, but that might be less relevant in our case.
  • FAQ

How to map

We're working to make things easier, but it may take a little while to learn the ropes. Take your time and feel free to Contact people to ask questions.



(JA to EN translation ommited. It is for people who can read/write Japanese. If you're ok with Japanese, go to the japanese page.)

Recovery aiding activities by OpenStreetMap Japan

Shortly after the disaster, OpenStreetMap Japan has set up OpenStreetMap Japan - Crisis Mapping Project and has started the following activities:

Other links

The following links are OpenStreetMap related:

  • ESRI
  • Modis Terra Coastlines before and after the tsunami can be shown as layers.

The following links are not directly OpenStreetMap related:

Shorter link to this page: http://bit.ly/SendaiTsunamiOSM