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Early hero of Japan's quake tragedy: Building codes

Half a day after Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake/tsunami combo, it's clear that the country can be thankful for its preparedness, especially when it comes to strict building codes and advanced structural engineering.

The above video, filmed and uploaded today by someone from a Tokyo-based software firm called Dokizono, shows high-rise buildings swaying in the city's Shinjuku ward. Swaying may seem scary, especially if you're in the building in one of the higher floors, but flexibility alleviates the shock, and is in fact intentional.

Twitter is full of praise for Japan's strong bridges and well-constructed buildings, which may well have saved "millions of lives." It's been reported that Tokyo Tower, an Eiffel-style building at the heart of the city, has suffered a bent tip, and fires have been reported sporadically throughout the city. Nevertheless, as one tweeter puts it, "Not one building in Tokyo collapses after biggest quake for 140yrs. A testament to Japanese engineering."

"Many lessons were learned from the Kobe earthquake of 1995 that killed 6,400 people and forced a reassessment of the building regulations for both residential offices and transport infrastructure," wrote Telegraph UK East Asian correspondent Peter Foster.

"Buildings are made earthquake proof with the aid of deep foundation and massive shock absorbers that dampen seismic energy," Foster explains. "Another method allows the base of a building to move semi-independently to its superstructure, reducing the shaking caused by a quake."

And along with a high-tech tsunami early-warning system, Japan's coastal communities regularly practice drills, and install emergency alarm systems in every residence. Quake sensors can trigger alarms in those homes, reports Norimitsu Onishi in the New York Times, and also signals flood gates to close automatically.

Though the death toll in Japan may well reach into the thousands, a quake of this magnitude could have easily claimed many more lives without such meticulous preparedness.

Msnbc.com's breaking news story:

Hundreds dead after quake, tsunami slam Japan

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