National

Wakayama town holds evacuation drill on tsunami awareness day

Kyodo

About 1,200 children in the coastal town of Hirokawa in Wakayama Prefecture conducted a tsunami evacuation drill on Wednesday to mark tsunami awareness day.

Each year, Nov. 5 recalls the lessons of the Great Ansei Nankai Earthquake of 1854, when a tsunami wave struck swaths of the Kii Peninsula and Shikoku Island. Hirokawa was among the communities damaged by the huge waves.

The drill, which included children from day care centers and elementary and junior high schools, was based on a scenario in which a magnitude-9.1 earthquake had struck offshore along the Nankai Trough, triggering a 10-meter tsunami wave.

In August 2012, the Cabinet Office projected that in the event of a massive earthquake in that area a wave up to 9.1 meters high could strike the coast.

The drill started with a tsunami warning siren. Children ducked under tables and desks, and were then led into to the schoolyard before to higher ground.

Older students were told to help lead the younger ones.

“I tried to run at a pace students in junior grades could handle,” said sixth-grader Hiyori Matsubayashi, who evacuated to a hilltop shrine while holding the hand of a child in the first grade. “I was thinking about saving myself but also about this kid who was with me.”

Later, Hirokawa Mayor Toshiki Nishioka held a videoconference with Yasutoshi Nishimura, state minister in charge of disaster management, to report on the drill’s outcome.

At a meeting on disaster countermeasures held at the prime minister’s office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reminded those present of the successful evacuation of residents in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture in the 2011 disaster.

Known as the “miracle of Kamaishi,” nearly 3,000 elementary and junior high school students survived because they had rehearsed their evacuation drills. Of those who died in the city, only five were children.

“It is one of the valuable assets that need to be passed on to future generations,” Abe said.

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