Sky Tree holds drill against terror attack

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Some 1,900 people took part Monday in a terrorism-response drill at Tokyo Sky Tree based on the assumption that a toxic liquid like sarin was released on the 350-meter-high main observation deck.

Held about three weeks before the tower’s May 22 opening, the first disaster drill to take place at such a high elevation was carried out jointly by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Sumida Ward.

Some 400 Sumida Ward residents and 1,000 employees of Tobu Railway Co., the tower’s developer, took part by playing the roles of visitors, while the metropolitan fire and police departments and Self-Defense Forces teams provided first aid and evacuated people to a nearby school while engaging in decontamination efforts.

About 100 of the participants climbed down some 2,000 steps to reach the ground from the observation deck, which is the lower of two on the 634-meter Sky Tree, the world’s tallest free-standing tower.

The scenario on the observation deck, where only about 300 people were allowed to enter, was that a terrorist had sprayed the area with a toxic liquid and that 10 people, including the attacker, had collapsed. Firefighters and police in hazmat outfits rescued the 10 and carried them to the ground, where the injured were treated in emergency tents.

Tobu Railway is expecting some 200,000 visitors daily once the tower opens, and the lower observation deck can host 2,000 at any time, it said.

“This kind of drill cannot be conducted once (Tokyo Sky Tree) opens,” Kunio Takatsuka, section chief of the metro disaster prevention department, told reporters after the drill.

“Many people are expected to visit here and we cannot deny the possibility of it becoming a terrorist target,” Sumida Mayor Noboru Yamazaki said at the site, adding he hopes Monday’s drill proves practical in the event of a real emergency.

Although organizers praised the exercise as successful, participants who couldn’t go up to the observation deck or evacuate to the school questioned its effectiveness.

“We were told that we will evacuate to a nearby elementary school. But all we did was wait here with nothing to do,” Hideko Ayukawa, 42, a Sumida Ward resident at the site with her son, told The Japan Times.

“Drills at my son’s elementary school are far more meaningful than this.”