308 people ready to help in disaster

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has registered 308 bilingual Tokyo residents as volunteers to help foreigners in the event of a natural disaster, metropolitan officials said Feb. 13.

The government registered the 308 for this fiscal year and plans to seek some 200 more volunteers for the next fiscal year, probably around May, the officials said. A total of 576 people responded to the government’s call for bilingual residents last summer.

Following tests and interviews, 266 Japanese and 42 foreigners who have a good command of Japanese and at least one other foreign language were registered, the officials said. The group includes 158 speakers of English, 58 of Chinese, 19 of Spanish, 18 of Korean and French, 17 speakers of German, five of Portuguese and three each of Indonesia and Nepalese, according to the officials.

In the event of a disaster, the government will ask the volunteers to provide foreigners with information and to participate in relief and rescue activities at shelters and hospitals. Some 1,000 foreign-language volunteers will be needed to help foreigners in Tokyo if a major earthquake like the 1923 Great Kanto quake hits, according to an estimate by the metropolitan government. An estimated 400,000 foreigners live in Tokyo, including those here illegally or for a brief stay, the officials said.