Plan for Tokyo quake relief team drawn up

JIJI

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has drawn up a special operation plan for its emergency disaster relief team to prepare for a powerful earthquake that could strike the Tokyo metropolitan area, according to sources.

Under the plan, the ministry will deploy some 280 workers, including engineers, within 24 hours if Tokyo’s densely populated 23 wards are hit by a quake measuring at least lower-6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7, the sources said.

Within 48 hours of the disaster, the number of ministry workers that will be deployed will increase to about 1,000 under the plan, the sources said.

They will gather information on the damage caused by the temblor and start emergency repairs to roads and other vital infrastructure, according to the sources.

The team, called the Technical Emergency Center Force, or the TEC-Force, was created in fiscal 2008. Some 4,000 ministry workers, mainly engineers at the ministry’s eight regional bureaus, belong to the organization.

At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, however, only 80 team members managed to report for duty within 24 hours, and it took 72 hours for 500 members to get into areas hit hard by the disasters, according to the sources.

The operation plan is designed to ensure speedy dispatches of TEC-Force members to central Tokyo following a big quake.

TEC-Force members usually spring into action following orders from the land minister. But the plan has a rule that allows the TEC-Force to send advance teams to disaster zones in Tokyo before it receives an order from the minister.

The plan calls for regional bureaus outside the Kanto region to send helicopters, drain pump vehicles and satellite communications vehicles into Tokyo, according to the sources.