Priority should be on socially vulnerable in quake aftermath: Japanese panel

Kyodo

A government panel called for putting priority on the socially vulnerable, such as the homeless, elderly and disabled, when providing shelter in evacuation centers following a major earthquake in western Japan.

The panel under the Cabinet Office said the government should do “triage” when accepting evacuees in centers by asking those whose dwellings aren’t heavily damaged to return to their homes.

The panel is looking at how to plan for a devastating quake focused on the Nankai Trough, which lies in the seabed south of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.

In its final report, released Tuesday, the panel estimated that the government will have to deal with 9.5 million evacuees one week after such a temblor.

The report urges every household to stock at least a one-week supply of water and food because unforeseen and chaotic conditions could delay relief supplies.

The Cabinet Office is scheduled to compile a basic preparation, rebuilding and damage-mitigation plan by next April 1.

The panel’s final report calls for the establishment of a council legally empowered to bring together the central, prefectural and local governments as well as electric and gas companies to prepare for and deal with the aftermath of such a quake.

In August 2012, the Cabinet Office estimated a death toll of up to 323,000 in the event of a magnitude 9-class earthquake in the Nankai Trough. The figure compares with some 19,000 people who died or went missing due to the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

The office estimated that a magnitude 9.0 quake with its epicenter in the Nankai Trough could cause about ¥220 trillion worth of economic damage.

The panel also called for strengthening breakwaters so they can reduce damage from tsunami caused by a quake of magnitude 8 or greater.

The Nankai Trough runs from Suruga Bay off Shizuoka Prefecture to the Hyuganada sea off Miyazaki Prefecture.

Earlier this month, another government panel released a report saying there is a 60 to 70 percent chance that an earthquake registering magnitude 8 or above will occur along the Nankai Trough within the next 30 years.