National

Survey finds 56% of municipalities in Tokyo, surrounding prefectures in favor of disclosing names of missing people following disasters

Kyodo

More than half of municipalities in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures will disclose the names of missing people in a disaster despite concerns about personal information protection, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.

Ahead of Disaster Prevention Day on Sunday, the survey was conducted in July and August with all 212 municipalities in Tokyo and the prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, with a response rate of 100 percent.

Some 56.1 percent of the respondents in and around the area said they will disclose the names of people unaccounted for, or do so if conditions permit, according to the survey.

The government estimates that there is a 70 percent chance of a magnitude 7 quake occurring directly beneath Tokyo within the next 30 years. In the worst case scenario, it believes the quake could kill up to 23,000 people and destroy 610,000 buildings.

The survey found 2.8 percent see no need to disclose missing people’s names and 4.2 percent said they have no plan to do so but will consider it in the future, while 24.1 percent said they cannot decide on their own as the matter should be discussed by the central and prefectural governments.

Some 89.6 percent said they want the central government to set guidelines to stipulate in what cases they can make personal information available, as they are concerned that disclosing names could run afoul of their obligation to keep private information confidential.

In July last year, when torrential rain hit wide areas of western Japan and left more than 250 people dead, the Okayama Prefectural Government decided to disclose the names of missing people and the decision helped make rescue operations more effective, some disaster experts said.

Takehiko Yamamura of the Institute for Sustainable Disaster Prevention said the disclosure of missing people’s names could be helpful for search and rescue operators as the first 72 hours after a disaster are considered crucial for finding survivors.

“The central government should stipulate in law how to handle personal information in case of disasters, and municipalities should take measures such as establishing ordinances as needed,” Yamamura said.

The survey also questioned whether to disclose the names of victims, with 48.6 percent saying they will disclose names or do so if conditions permit, 6.1 percent having no plan to do so and 9 percent considering it though they see no need at present.