Some 1.3 million people took part in nationwide disaster-prevention drills Monday that were organized by central and local governments.
The annual drills are held on Disaster Prevention Day, which falls on the anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake of Sept. 1, 1923. This year’s exercises were based on scenarios of massive earthquakes hitting the Tokai region as well as Tokyo and surrounding prefectures.
Coming on the heels of three strong quakes that hit Miyagi Prefecture on July 26, this year’s drills were imbued with a greater sense of urgency and realism.
The Miyagi earthquakes, the strongest of which had a magnitude of 6.2, caused considerable damage in the prefecture and injured hundreds of people. No deaths were reported.
The drills were held in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, and other places near Tokyo, based on the scenario of a major quake with a magnitude of 7.1 occurring in southern Saitama Prefecture.
At the prime minister’s office, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi declared a state of emergency after holding an emergency meeting with ministers.
At a drill site at the Air Self-Defense Force base in Iruma, firefighters from the cities of Sapporo, Nagoya and Fukuoka and rescue workers from the Miyagi Prefectural Police were transported to the base by ASDF aircraft.
Koizumi visited the base later in the day to observe the drill.
In seven prefectures, including Shizuoka, that are required to take special precautions to prepare for a long-predicted Tokai quake, some 960,000 people took part in the disaster drills, using Shizuoka airport, which is currently under construction, as a heliport for transporting relief goods.
In Tokyo, a memorial service was held for the more than 100,000 victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake. Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, attended the service.