Mobile phones, SNS data to the rescue in Nankai Trough scenario

Kyodo

Some 18 years after the Great Hanshin Earthquake mangled Kobe and just two years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami required U.S. help to save Tohoku, the land ministry is still making grand plans to counter the next natural disaster.

Its next big idea? Tracking mobile phones and social networking posts.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry plans to collect data from people’s phones and SNS accounts to “track disaster information” if the feared Nankai Trough earthquake strikes off the coast of central and western Japan, a draft interim report said Sunday.

According to the Cabinet Office, a Nankai Trough temblor would kill up to 323,000 people and cause ¥220 trillion in damage, making the Tohoku calamity pale by comparison.

Under this so-called disaster prevention plan, the ministry aims to use global positioning data culled from people’s cars and mobile phones — as well as information posted on social networks — to grasp the movements of evacuees and traffic after the tsunami wipe out coastal roads and the quake rips up many of the others.

It also plans to gather information on flooding and landslides using helicopters and satellites, the draft says.

Enhancing the quake resistance of roads, airports and railway stations will also be on the agenda.

The interim emergency plan says the government will put priority on protecting lives in the first three hours after the quake, while concentrating on rescue operations and transportation routes for the first 72 hours.

In the next step, it will set up transportation systems for delivering relief supplies and supporting disaster victims over a seven to 10-day period.

For the first month, the government will concentrate on rebuilding critical facilities, the plan says.

The land ministry will compile its final plan by the end of the year and list the costs in its budgetary request for fiscal 2014, which begins in April.