Tokyo to speed up evacuation planning

Olympic risks raised following disaster panel's quake report


The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is set to advance efforts to draw up evacuation plans for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games, after a key panel last week pointed out a 70 percent likelihood of a large earthquake striking the capital “within 30 years.”

The report released last week by the Central Disaster Management Council apparently urged Tokyo to take steps. Some 10 million people are expected to flock to the capital to witness the sporting spectacle.

By contrast, the University of Tokyo warned in January 2012 that there is a 70 percent chance of a powerful earthquake striking the capital by 2016, and a 98 percent chance within 30 years.

The city government will draw up evacuation plans for each athletic facility and build seawalls against potential tsunami and improve roads and other transportation infrastructure.

The Olympic Village and many other athletic facilities will be concentrated on the waterfront around Tokyo Bay. The panel estimates tsunami up to 2 meters high could strike the bay if an earthquake occurs directly beneath the capital.

The metropolitan government believes existing measures are already sufficient to deal with tsunami. Nevertheless, it is ready to take additional steps, such as by reinforcing the ground under the seawalls to prevent damage from tremors (much of the area is reclaimed land) and by making floodgate equipment waterproof.

It will also raise the height of the construction site for the Olympic Village.

Using its own subsidies, the metro government will speed up work to make buildings along major roads stronger to keep thoroughfares free of potential rubble.

It will also reinforce the highway bridges it manages. Since the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, railroads in Tokyo have already undergone reinforcement, including by covering elevated bridge piers with steel sheets.

The decisions on evacuation routes and sites will be based on the design structure of each venue. Detailed discussions will begin shortly after the Olympic organizing committee is set up next year.

The disaster panel’s report also called for diversifying the ways that information will be disseminated to foreign visitors, such as by using pictographs.

Railways will be required to display multilingual signboards at stations and to train staff to give evacuation guidance in foreign languages.

School-protection funds

The government plans to provide subsidies in fiscal 2014 to promote efforts to make private schools earthquake-resistant, informed sources said.

The government will earmark billions of yen in subsidies in a budget proposal for the fiscal year starting next April, the sources said.

The move comes amid concerns that facilities at private schools are less quake-resistant than those at public schools.

Concern about the safety of school facilities has been growing since the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck off Tohoku in March 2011, spawning killer tsunami that killed about 20,000 people.

According to the education ministry, nearly 90 percent of public elementary and junior high school buildings met quake-resistance standards as of last spring, while the percentage exceeded 90 percent for national universities.

By contrast, around 80 percent of private schools including kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools, and universities were quake-resistant as of spring 2012. They lag behind public schools due largely to funding difficulties.

In August, the education ministry sought ¥15 billion in budget allocation for fiscal 2014 to help private schools make their buildings earthquake-resistant.