Disaster drill held to prepare for Nankai quake

Kyodo

A disaster drill for the anticipated major earthquake in central to western Japan was held Saturday with about 4,200 people taking part at numerous locations.

Self-Defense Forces planes and helicopters were used to simulate transporting injured people from airports in the region to cities in less affected areas, including Tokyo and Sendai.

The exercise, held a day before the annual nationwide drill, was based on a scenario in which a powerful quake in the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan caused extensive damage in Aichi, Mie and Wakayama prefectures.

Miyagi, Ishikawa, Gifu, Osaka and Tokyo, along with various central government ministries, also took part in the drill.

Last year, a similar exercise was held in Kochi Prefecture and other locations.

The central government set up a local emergency response headquarters in Nagoya to coordinate relief efforts with officials from ministries and agencies as well as local governments.

A Maritime Self-Defense Force transport ship took part to test its effectiveness in providing medical support.

In its worst-case scenario, the government estimates that a Nankai Trough quake could kill up to 323,000 people and cause ¥220 trillion in damage. Researchers say there is a 60 to 70 percent chance of a significant quake occurring in the trough within 30 years.

A drill to prepare for a huge tsunami was meanwhile conducted Saturday in Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture.

According to the town, more than 650 people and 400 vehicles mobilized for the drill.

The exercise was based on a quake measuring 6 on the Japanese scale of 7 striking off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, prompting authorities to issue a warning for a tsunami reaching the coast in 45 minutes. With the help of firefighters, the participants evacuated to three locations.

“We were caught in a traffic jam for three to four minutes when we tried to cross a national road, but our evacuation process went relatively smoothly,” said resident Yoshihiro Yoneda, 66.

The town’s main evacuation areas are about 2 to 4 km inland, so it would be difficult for people to reach them on foot.

Officials used cameras at intersections and helicopters to monitor the evacuation process. The collected data will be assessed by Tohoku University’s International Research Institute of Disaster Science to be used for creating a disaster prevention program.