Cleaning Up Earthquake Damage

Would this work?

Let’s presume the Japanese government has agreed to declare everything in a certain area a total loss and to compensate any survivors from these worst-hit zones.

OK, so we open bidding to clean up all of a certain area. We ask major construction companies to bid on how much they would pay for salvage rights for anything they can find in the disaster area.

They have to give back human bodies and any toxic stuff the government would take charge of.

**Would the salvage value of a ravaged area be greater than the cost of collecting and sorting it? **

Almost certainly not.

Consider conventional building demolition where a contractor is hired to remove an obsolete building. They strip out all the accessible copper & other scrap metal & seell it to recyclers. Then they shred or implode the rest & haul it all off to a landfill.

Q: Do they charge for their services, or make enough off the recycling that they’ll take out the building for free?

A: They charge a buttload. The recycling generates a few percent on top, tops.

Now consider this: Which is richer “ore?”. A single intact building, or a largely destroyed city block deeply intermingled with mud (tsunami) and biohazards (eathquake or tsunami). Not to mention wrecked cars with flammable & noxious chemicals. Clearly there’s a lot more dross in the wrecked block. And it gets worse in a village-scale disaster since you’ve got more area & less valuables per square foot / meter / mile.

Now consider that it’s generally safe for workers to work inside a building being demolished, pulling out copper & steel in an organized fashion. Contrast that with trying to work inside a partially collapsed structure of uncertain safety, or even just a heap of rubble. Teasing out the good stuff won’t be easy. Not easy = not cheap.

Now consider the public reaction to using bulldozers to move piles of rubble which contain an unknown but non-zero number of human bodies. The inevitable footage of some grannie’s torso being smeared across a tractor tread will not endear the company to the public.
Now how much would you charge to do that cleanup?

The best example I can mention is the occasional completely intact ship that has been moved inland and perhaps sitting on top of a house. These vessels may be almost without damage and worth 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars. The right type of crane could place them on a dolly and move them back to sea. Despite what we see of the intense damage, the Japanese are making great strides in some places. I saw one road section that was wiped out by the quake and sunk in 20’ or so for some distance. Then the after picture show is completely rebuilt only days after the quake. While it makes no sense to pick copper from the mud for salvage, certain items of value may be salvaged profitably. They still search for bodies. Perhaps it would be more efficient to shovel up the mess and carry it to a land fill where it could be sifted through for salvage and dead bodies. First, people have to be given the chance to visit and make peace with the situation and accept the fact that nothing can be found at the previous site of their homes. Japanese are very pragmatic and this will be done.