In preparation for an anticipated major quake in the Nankai Trough, West Japan Railway Co. held an earthquake emergency drill Tuesday on the southern coastline of the Kii Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture.

The exercise, on the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, was staged in the coastal town of Kushimoto on JR West's Kisei Main Line, an area expected to be hit by tsunami in the event of a powerful earthquake occurring offshore.

JR West tested the effectiveness of new ladders that passengers themselves are asked to manipulate to get off stranded trains.

About 230 employees of JR and private railway companies took part in the exercise, which used an express train and assumed that most of the passengers would not be familiar with the area. Express trains take longer than local trains to evacuate because they have fewer doors.

The Wakayama Prefectural Government predicts that 1 meter-high tsunami could arrive at Kushimoto as soon as three minutes after an earthquake.

JR West estimates that a 73.5-km stretch of the Kisei Main Line's 200-km coastal route would probably be submerged in the event of large tsunami.

The railway has been putting up signs along the coast indicating evacuation routes and building emergency staircases to lead passengers to higher ground.