Disaster drills held on 1923 quake memorial day

Kyodo

An estimated 2.35 million people took part in government-led disaster drills Monday, the anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated the Tokyo region.

The annual exercise was based on a scenario in which a quake with a magnitude of 7.3 and a maximum intensity of 7 on the Japanese seismic scale hit central Tokyo in the early morning.

Drills for evacuations, fighting fires and rescue operations were also held in many parts of the country.

The drills included a special Cabinet meeting to set up an emergency disaster countermeasures office, according to the basic law on natural disasters.

Some of the ministers arrived to the meeting at the prime minister’s office on foot, under the assumption that Tokyo’s transit system had been knocked out.

“In this critical situation, I urge you to make utmost efforts to prioritize lifesaving operations and ensure the safety of citizens,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the ministers gathered at the meeting.

He held a teleconference with Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe to coordinate measures with local government offices, practicing how to confirm damage reports and determine what relief supplies are needed.

At a news conference after the Cabinet meeting, Abe called for citizens’ support in times of disaster, asking them not to horde supplies, which was seen in the wake of the March 2011 triple disaster.

Nine prefectural and local governments in and around Tokyo held a joint disaster drill with police in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, involving firefighters, the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. Army.

The central government is working to establish a more effective disaster response system following the devastating earthquake that struck the northeast in March 2011.

Sept. 1 is always marked as Disaster Prevention Day, commemorating the magnitude-7.9 earthquake that hit the Kanto region on that date in 1923, eventually leaving a death toll of more than 100,000 people.