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Jesse Walker draws lessons from the quake:

Disaster movies and disaster research might as well come from different planets. When Hollywood shows you an earthquake, an eruption, or a towering inferno, you see mass panic, stampeding crowds, maybe a looting spree. When sociologists study real-life disasters, they see calm, resourceful people evacuating buildings, rescuing strangers, and cooperating nonviolently.

... These patterns shift somewhat from culture to culture, and if a disaster coincides with certain conditionssevere class distinctions, a serious pre-existing crime problem, a police department that's especially corrupta post-disaster riot may break out. But that's the exception, not the rule. On Monday, Ed West of the London Telegraph asked with awe, "Why is there no looting in Japan?" A better query would be, "When people do loot, what prompted the plunder?"

(Photo: A man and his sister stand before their broken house, destroyed by the tsunami at Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture on March 17, 2011. The official number of dead and missing after a devastating earthquake and tsunami that flattened Japan's northeast coast has hit 14,650, police said, a rise of nearly 1,000 in just a few hours. By Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

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