U.S. Navy joins island disaster drill

Kyodo

Remote Kozu Island, which is administered by Tokyo, held its first comprehensive disaster drills since March 2011 on Thursday, in preparation for a major earthquake.

For the first time the U.S. Navy in Japan joined a remote-island disaster exercise regularly conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces.

The scenario for the drills assumed the island, roughly 180 km south of central Tokyo, would be hit by 25-meter tsunami following a magnitude 9.1 quake in the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan, with the first, 1-meter wave arriving in 11 minutes.

The U.S. Navy transported relief supplies by ship and helicopter. Rescue squads of the Ground Self-Defense Force, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Tokyo Fire Department were also transported by helicopter.

Word of a major disaster was announced over the community’s wireless system. The participants, more than 1,000 Kozu islanders and others, including high school students acting as tourists, evacuated on foot to an elementary school on high ground.

Kinuko Fujii, 74, said it took her 13 minutes to reach the evacuation site.

“I couldn’t run. My legs got weak and I failed to reach the site by the time of the first tsunami,” she said. “If a major earthquake actually occurs, I might be too upset, unable to move.”

The village of Kozu previously projected a maximum tsunami height of 6 meters with the first wave reaching the island in 15 minutes, but revised this assumption based on the Cabinet Office’s new estimate, announced in August, of damage from a Nankai Trough quake.

The metro government stages drills on isolated islands every two years.

Meanwhile, in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku Electric Power Co. conducted joint disaster exercises Thursday with Chugoku Electric Power Co. to restore a power distribution facility, assuming the facility had been damaged in a massive quake and tsunami.