• Kyodo


An updated tsunami evacuation map has been released by officials in the disaster-hit town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, and includes warnings and important safety tips.

The map, available on the town’s official website, was revised based on lessons learned from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left about 10 percent of the coastal town’s residents dead.

“Do not return to the lowlands,” says one of the information messages on the map, along with a reminder to prepare an emergency kit with essential items in advance.

When the 2011 tsunami was heading toward the coast, many people in Otsuchi returned home to get belongings or to look for family members, and the lack of preparedness contributed to the large number of deaths in the area.

According to Otsuchi officials, nearly half of the residents of the Ando district were in their homes when the massive tsunami swept them away, believing the disaster would not reach the area.

The officials said the map, which identifies 37 emergency shelters, is aimed at prompting and helping residents to prepare their own communication network and evacuation plan in case their family members are forced to flee separately.

To help those searching for missing people in the event of another 3/11-type disaster, the map advise residents to carry photos of their family members.

“We suggest preparing the latest photos, which could help in the search if the family members get separated,” said Kiyotaka Yamanaka, on loan from the city of Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, and now head of Otsuchi’s crisis management office.

Apart from photos, other easy-to-carry items for emergency kits include personal documents such as insurance policies, water, food, medication, extra cash, batteries and clothes.

The map also bears a stark reminder that nothing can be assumed in the event of a disaster.

“The scale of the tsunami may exceed all expectations and knowledge,” says one of the warnings.

Others state that “the first waves are not necessarily the highest” and “the waves that come ashore may differ from alerts, which are issued based on data from observed sea levels.”

The map was initially created last August and was updated along with revisions to region’s disaster prevention plan.

“I hope residents will use this map to communicate with their relatives how to prepare for tsunami,” said Tetsuo Koshiba, a Kanagawa Prefectural Government official assigned to support the town’s reconstruction efforts and a member of the crisis management office’s.

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