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Japan's disaster areas hold 1st drills post-tsunami

Publication Date : 02-09-2012


Disaster drills were conducted in areas hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake for the first time since last year's earthquake and tsunami as part of Saturday's Disaster Prevention Day.

About 2,500 residents took part in drills in a coastal area of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, which lost 430 people due to the disaster on March 11, 2011. The drills assumed a magnitude-9 earthquake struck off the Sanriku coast.

Himeko Kominato, 81, who participated in a drill held at the municipal Yotsukura Primary School, said, "We evacuated along with our neighbors while recalling [last year's] disaster, when I fled through water up to my knees." Her husband, who is in a wheelchair, also participated.

In Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, about 38,000 people took part in a drill led by the prefectural government. Assuming roads were severed by a tsunami, the drill included a rescue operation of residents trapped in an isolated area.

"If roads and telecommunications are severed, we can't save lives that would otherwise be saved. That's why it's important to carry out drills using a helicopter," said Nobuyuki Kobayashi, a 70-year-old participant who lives in a temporary housing complex for disaster victims in the city.

In Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, the municipal government lost about 15 per cent of its employees when last year's tsunami devastated its town hall. Its drill on Saturday assumed an earthquake occurred at 7am and a 10-metre tsunami hit the town in four minutes. It set up a disaster response headquarters in its new town hall, which has been relocated to a higher ground.

Tsuneko Sato, 83, who participated in the drill while walking with a cane, said, "Because another tsunami advisory warning was issued last night [due to a strong earthquake occurring off the Philippines], I was so worried I couldn't go to sleep."

Meanwhile, the Fukushima prefectural government canceled its comprehensive disaster drills for the second straight year, as it has been unable to use its facilities since the March 2011 disaster.


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