In accordance with earthquake drills taking place across the country, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tachikawa Municipal Government jointly held a large-scale drill Sept. 1 at a field in front of the Tokyo Disaster Prevention Center in Tachikawa, Tokyo, with about 12,000 people.

The participants received training in firefighting, first-aid treatment and other rescue and relief activities, while firefighters and Ground Self-Defense Forces personnel demonstrated their skills in postdisaster firefighting and rescue activities.

“If a disaster happens in reality, we would not know what to do in the confusion. Even in this drill, we don’t know what’s going on in this large compound,” said Tomoko Tate, a leader of a local neighborhood association who led residents to the disaster drill field.

Among them, 24 foreign language volunteers gathered to participate in the disaster exercise for the first time, after having registered with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to help non-Japanese in case of a disaster. The Tokyo government established the volunteer system last year, and 630 people with 24 languages have been registered so far.

An estimated 400,000 non-Japanese, including tourists and short-stay visitors from abroad, regularly stay in Tokyo. The metropolitan government estimates that about 1,000 language volunteers would be required in a major disaster.

“There are many Chinese, Americans, Koreans and Indonesians in Tokyo. I wanted to give something back (to foreigners) after returning to Japan,” said Toshihiko Kobayashi, who has spent time in Indonesia and is registered as a volunteer in English and Indonesian. The language volunteers translated signboards set up for the drill in Tachikawa and worked to help communication between quake survivors and doctors.

The drill at Tachikawa was based on a major earthquake occurring directly beneath the Tama district of western Tokyo. The latest estimation by the metropolitan government is that 1,820 would perish in such an earthquake.

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