Fewer than half of Japan’s school buildings are quake-resistant, according to a Cabinet Office study released Wednesday.

The proportion of schools that have been reinforced against earthquakes stands at 45.9 percent, while only 14 prefectures boast a ratio of better than 50 percent in terms of quake-resistant school buildings.

The study, in survey form, covered 151,624 buildings operated by 50,931 educational institutions nationwide, ranging from kindergartens to universities.

Of those surveyed, 69,588 buildings had been declared earthquake-proof by local authorities as of the end of fiscal 2001, the Cabinet Office said.

This does not mean that all the remaining buildings are not quake-proof, however, as the local authorities had no assessments for 44.8 percent of the overall number of buildings, the office said.

By prefecture, Shizuoka had the highest proportion of earthquake-resistant school buildings, at 69.7 percent.

This was followed by Kanagawa Prefecture at 60.4 percent and Mie Prefecture with 59.6 percent.

At the opposite end of the scale, Kagawa Prefecture ranked worst with 27.7 percent. It was followed by Tokushima with 29.7 percent and Yamagata with 36.3 percent.

This is the first time the Cabinet Office has compiled the results on a prefecture-by-prefecture basis, according to officials.

“The Tokai region and southern Kanto region, where big quakes are predicted to happen, are more well-prepared overall. Other parts of Japan lag behind,” an official said. “I hope prefectural officials will make use of the results for making preventive measures.”

The survey suggests that only 48.8 percent of school gyms, which are often used as emergency evacuation sites, are resistant to quakes, while 61.1 percent of densely populated areas have no public evacuation spaces — such as a children’s playgrounds or parks — within a distance of 500 meters.

Disaster confab starts

KOBE (Kyodo) A global conference on the prevention of natural disasters in Asia got under way here Wednesday.

The three-day event started just ahead of the eighth anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which hit Kobe and other parts of Hyogo Prefecture on Jan. 17, 1995, causing the loss of more than 6,000 lives.

During the meeting, some 300 participants, including government officials, nongovernmental organization members and scholars, will exchange views on the lessons learned from past disasters and will hone their prevention skills, organizers said.

They are expected to discuss the establishment of a cooperative system between governments and NGOs and the development of international information-sharing systems in case of disasters.

In a conference address, Satoru Nishikawa, chief of the Kobe-based Asian Disaster Reduction Center, said: “A disaster is brought about when nature attacks fragile society. It is now most important to prepare for it, rather than thinking over how to reconstruct following a disaster.”

According to ADRC, 40 percent of the world’s natural disasters over the past five years have taken place in Asia.

The group also estimates that 50 percent of the world’s disaster victims and 50 percent of overall damage in financial terms have been borne by Asian economies, curbing social and economic development in the region.

Is NTT prepared?

Firms within the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. group tested their preparedness Wednesday against any potentially devastating earthquake that could hit the Tokai region in the future, NTT said.

The tests, which involved 82 group firms, were aimed at checking information flows within the NTT group in the event of a major temblor, the company said.

The participants also examined how a large earthquake could affect NTT’s Internet Protocol phone network, it said.

Under the simulated exercise, NTT set up bases to coordinate measures aimed at minimizing a quake’s effects on NTT companies providing services within the Tokai area, which covers Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures.

The firms at which these bases were established include NTT West Corp. and NTT DoCoMo Inc.

NTT set up another base at NTT East Corp. to provide quake survivors with telecom assistance.

It transformed the NTT Teishin Building in Tokyo’s Otemachi district into a special base tasked with checking whether the quake-hit area was being swamped by telephone inquiries, it said.

NTT also launched a service allowing survivors and relatives to contact each other via a message-recording service.

People interested in testing the message service can try it out until 5 p.m. Tuesday by dialing 171, the telecommunications company said.

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