As Sept. 1, annual disaster drill day and the 89th anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, nears, it is appropriate to think about ways to better cope with future earthquakes that may directly hit Tokyo.
It is expected that major earthquakes with a magnitude-7 will take place close to or beneath the nation’s capital. A government estimate shows that quakes expected to happen north of Tokyo Bay, for example, will cause some 11,000 deaths and cost up to ¥112 trillion in economic damage.
It is important that the government and enterprises have adequate preparedness plans in effects so that they can continue functioning even if Tokyo is hit by major quakes.
The government should work out plans on how to maintain the functions of the Cabinet, the lifelines such as city water, sewerage, electricity and gas, medical service, traffic infrastructure, defense and public order capabilities as well as the capital’s economic and financial functions. Since these functions may be damaged, the government should develop a scenario for scheduling the restoration of these functions.
Although individual government ministries and agencies have worked out plans to maintain their functions in the event of major quakes, the government will also need to determine which government functions should be given priority in such a situation and to revise the ministries and agencies’ plans from this viewpoint.
This work is important because an ongoing review of the government estimate of damage from major Tokyo quakes following the experience of the 3/11 quake and tsunami may result in revising the expected damage upward.
The government also must consider the possibility that major Tokyo quakes will damage the prime minister’s headquarters and the Diet building. It may be forced to set up government headquarters to cope with such quakes and an emergency Diet outside Tokyo.
In other words, the government must seriously consider choosing a city that will function as a temporary capital and carry out related work. Candidate cities include Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya, Sendai and Sapporo, where many regional bureaus of central ministries are located.
The government also needs to work out measures to help people who try to return home from their workplaces after major quakes hit Tokyo. In the 3/11 disasters, some 5.15 million people could not go home because train services had stopped.
It may take a long time for train services to resume if Tokyo is hit by major quakes. If trains stop and there are no dangers from tsunami, people should be told not to try to move.
Enterprises should strictly follow a Tokyo Metropolitan Government by-law which enters into force in April 2013, requiring them to store water and food that last three days for their employees.