The government approved on Friday a 10-year program aimed at reducing by 80 percent the number of victims from a major earthquake experts fear will someday strike in the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan.
In the worst-case scenario, the government estimates the tally from such a quake and ensuing tsunami would exceed 300,000.
The trough runs from Suruga Bay, off Shizuoka Prefecture, to the Sea of Hyuga, off Miyazaki.
Researchers have warned that a magnitude-9.0 earthquake in the 770-km-long trough could hit Pacific coastal areas sometime “in the next 30 years.”
For the program, the government designated 707 municipalities in 29 prefectures as areas where measures should be strengthened to halve the number of buildings that could collapse or burn down.
Of those municipalities, 139 in 14 prefectures that could suffer serious tsunami damage were designated areas for the government to raise subsidies for evacuation centers, financing two-thirds of the cost, up from half.
Based on the program, local governments are expected to compile detailed measures so they can cooperate with the central government more closely.
The program was adopted at a meeting Friday of the Central Disaster Prevention Council headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe said he will “make every effort to protect lives and properties from huge disasters.”
In the worst case, the victims from a major Nankai Trough temblor and tsunami are estimated to reach 332,000, while buildings that will collapse or burn are estimated at 2.5 million.
The plan calls for speeding up the designation of buildings to be used as shelters if tsunami strike, and construction of coastal barriers against the powerful waves.
Among the many quakes that have rocked central and western Japan in recent years, a magnitude-7.3 earthquake that struck the port city of Kobe and its vicinity on Jan. 17, 1995, killed more than 8,000 people.
The magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake claimed about 18,000 people.
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