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The government’s response plan for the dreaded mega-quake that is predicted to take place in the Nankai Trough off the Pacific coast calls for mobilizing up to 140,000 Self-Defense Force personnel, police officers and firefighters from across Japan and getting them to the devastated areas within 72 hours. It is going to be an operation of unprecedented scale involving a dramatic range of parties, and given the magnitude of the assumed disaster, it will be certain to face unpredictable hurdles, including severed key transportation routes. Both national and local authorities need to follow up on the plan with sufficient drills and simulations to verify its effectiveness and improve it where necessary — and make sure they can proceed smoothly with the operation should the disaster strike.

The emergency plan, compiled this week by the Central Disaster Prevention Council, lays out a timeline of initial responses to the anticipated Nankai Trough quake, which is predicted to cause massive damage along a broad area stretching from the Tokai region to Kyushu, based on lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011. It calls on the government to initiate rescue operations even before the extent of the damage in affected areas is known and without waiting for requests for help from local authorities, so that effective help can be provided within the crucial period where victims have the best odds of survival.

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