Tokyo tackles fire risks in old houses

JIJI

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is speeding up efforts to prevent quake-sparked fires in areas crowded with old wooden houses.

The metro government last year designated 4 sq. km in 12 areas as special zones eligible for tax breaks and other preferential treatment designed to promote fire prevention and plans to designate more areas this year. Some 70 sq. km of the 620-sq.-km area covered by Tokyo’s 23 wards are thought to be fire-prone.

The metro government said in a 2012 estimate that 9,700 people will die if Tokyo is hit by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake centered on northern Tokyo Bay, with 4,100 likely to be claimed by fires.

Steps include encouraging people in wooden houses to move to quake-resistant condominiums and giving residents who rebuild houses into fireproof residences five years of property tax breaks.