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Keywords:

  • earthquakes;
  • resilience;
  • disaster

In 2011 two significant earthquakes tested the world's most seismically resilient communities: the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand and the Tohoku earthquake in Japan. These events challenged some of the best enforced, high-quality seismic building codes in the world and shocked two resilient communities. Although both countries coped extremely well, the concern lies with the many seismically vulnerable countries that are becoming rapidly industrial and urban centric. This commentary briefly examines the Christchurch and Tohuku earthquakes and considers what makes a community resilient and what can be learnt about resilience from ‘disasters’ in the global North.