The government held comprehensive antidisaster drills across the country Saturday based on scenarios involving major earthquakes hitting Tokyo and other locations.
The exercises included a joint drill by Yokohama, Tokyo and seven other nearby municipalities simulating a temblor directly hitting the metropolitan area, as well as one preparing for a major quake centering in the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan. About 387,000 people participated in similar exercises in 40 prefectures, according to the Cabinet Office.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and all other ministers gathered at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo and held a disaster response headquarters meeting, followed by a mock news conference in which the premier announced there had been serious damage in the metropolitan area and asked the public to act calmly.
It has been nearly a year and a half since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster hit northeastern Japan. The drills come shortly after the government compiled a new estimate that said up to 323,000 people could be killed in the event of a quake focused on the Nankai Trough.
The Tokyo government also said in its fresh estimate that up to about 9,600 people could die from an earthquake hitting the area with the maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale. The drills, held annually on “Bosai no Hi” or Disaster Prevention Day on Sept. 1, follow a series of recent meteorological disasters, such as torrential rains in July that hit the northern Kyushu region in southwestern Japan.
One of the government exercises was based on a scenario of a magnitude 7.3 earthquake centering in northern Tokyo Bay measuring up to upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale. Considering that cars might have been rendered unusable due to damaged roads and congestions, Cabinet members walked or cycled to the prime minister’s office.
The nine-municipality exercise mainly took place in Yokohama, envisioning a magnitude 7.9 earthquake focused in the Sagami Bay registering up to 7 on the Japanese scale.
In Yamashita Park, residents evacuated to buildings and other locations using disaster-alert functions of their mobile phones. At Minatomirai Station operated by Yokohama Minatomirai Railway Co., station workers guided people as though they were having difficulty going home.
For a drill in preparation for the possible Nankai Trough quake with the magnitude level of around 9, the government conducted an exercise mobilizing airplanes and Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers carrying helicopters to transport the injured from the Shikoku region, which is expected to suffer major damage, to parts of the Kyushu region.
A C-12 transport aircraft of the U.S. Navy flew from the Atsugi base in the west of Tokyo to the Haneda airport in a drill to deliver relief supplies to the Ground Self-Defense Force.