FUKUOKA – Fukuoka on Friday conducted a drill for the J-Alert system to prepare for the possibility of a North Korean ballistic missile launch, sending warnings to mobile phones and bringing the city’s trains to a temporary halt.
The drill for the satellite-based J-Alert system was organized by the Cabinet Secretariat and the city after North Korea test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday, stoking further concerns over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Fukuoka, with a population of around 1.57 million, is the first government ordinance-designated city to carry out such an exercise. A similar J-Alert drill was conducted in the town of Fukaura in Aomori Prefecture in October.
Although the emergency news alerts clearly stated in Japanese and English that it was simply a drill, several civic groups had asked the Fukuoka Municipal Government not to conduct it because it would unnecessarily fan fear.
The drill started with J-Alert warnings appearing on mobile phones at 10 a.m. along with a notice from the central government that read: “A missile was reportedly fired. Please stay inside your building or evacuate to the basement.”
The warnings immediately prompted the municipal subway and Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. to suspend 30 trains and Kyushu Railway Co. to bring its trains to an emergency stop.
Meanwhile, about 50 residents at Tenjin Chuo Park in central Fukuoka were evacuated to underground and other areas immediately after the alert was issued. Five minutes later, a second alert followed, notifying recipients that a missile flew over Japan.
At Akasaka Subway Station, trains were halted after the first alert. The station was cleared to resume operation after about three minutes.
Eiko Saeki, a 68-year-old business owner who alighted at the station, said she felt “prepared” for a North Korean missile launch after being notified through her phone.