Nearly 75% of schools used as tsunami evacuation sites ‘unsafe’


Researchers who surveyed elementary and junior high schools in coastal areas in seven prefectures are calling for a review of the designated tsunami evacuation sites.

Nearly 75 percent of those schools are bracing for tsunami damage following a major earthquake projected to hit the Nankai Trough in the Pacific, yet about 90 percent of the schools that responded are designated as evacuation sites, a survey has revealed.

“With the risk of tsunami always in mind, schools and teachers should proactively discuss the designation of evacuation sites and other steps with local governments and residents,” said Tohoku Fukushi University professor Takao Kazumi, one of the researchers.

The university is in Sendai, one of the areas hit hardest by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

The survey in February-March 2013 covered 1,436 schools in the prefectures of Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie, Wakayama, Tokushima and Kochi, which are expected to be hit by tsunami spawned from the Nankai quake.

Of the 815 schools that responded to the survey, 600, or 73.6 percent, said they are concerned about tsunami damage, and 735, or 90.2 percent, are designated as evacuation sites.

According to hazard maps drawn up by local administrative authorities, 354 of the 815 schools are situated in areas that could be struck by the giant waves.

Of them, 50 schools are recognized as being at the highest risk of tsunami because they are situated within 1 km of the coast, less than 5 meters above sea level and lack upland areas nearby to evacuate to, according to the survey.

At Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, 84 children and teachers died in the March 2011 tsunami, although the school was not included in a tsunami hazard area and was thus designated as an evacuation site.