Japan conducts emergency drills in preparation for the huge quake predicted to hit Tokyo area


The government conducted full-scale drills on Sunday — the official Disaster Prevention Day — in preparation for a powerful earthquake that is predicted to occur directly under the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The drills were carried out under a scenario of a 7.3 magnitude temblor occurring under the capitals’s 23 wards at 7 a.m., registering up to the maximum level of 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.

After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ministers of his Cabinet gathered at the Prime Minister’s Office in Chiyoda Ward in the capital shortly after 8 a.m. on Sunday, the government held a meeting of its emergency disaster response team led by Abe.

A video conference with Kensaku Morita, governor of Chiba Prefecture, adjacent to Tokyo, was held as part of the drills aimed at improving coordination between the central and local governments.

Morita requested the government to immediately launch necessary assistance measures, such as by sending personnel to support search and rescue operations and providing relief supplies. Abe responded that the government would swiftly provide support for those residents affected by the disaster.

“I want you all to take actions to protect your lives” during a disaster, Abe told a news conference afterwards.

Later, Abe traveled to the city of Funabashi, in Chiba Prefecture, where he inspected joint disaster drills being conducted by four prefectures, including Tokyo, and five cities from the metropolitan area. In the drills, participants practiced maritime search and rescue operations and the management volunteer centers.

At a ceremony to wrap up the drills, Abe said, “The government will continue to do its best in emergency disaster response and post-disaster reconstruction,” referring to recent catastrophic events that hit the country, including a strong earthquake in Niigata and Yamagata prefectures on the Sea of Japan side in June and last month’s heavy rains that struck northern areas of Kyushu.

The government in 2013 estimated the probability of an earthquake with a magnitude of around 7 occurring under the Tokyo metropolitan area in 30 years at 70 percent.

Up to about 23,000 people would likely be killed by collapsed buildings or fires from such a quake, and some 610,000 buildings would be damaged, according to the estimate. Economic damage, including from collapse of buildings and disruption in production and services, would amount to about ¥95 trillion.