Disaster areas hold first drills since 2011 quake in Japan
TOKYO - 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 percent of its employees when last year's tsunami devastated its town hall. Its drill on Saturday assumed an earthquake occurred at 7 a.m. and a 10-meter 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.
An evacuation drill to prepare for possible future accidents at a nuclear power plant was conducted Saturday in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, in light of the situation following the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The northern part of the ward is within a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) radius of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
About 70 residents received instructions from the city's disaster prevention and crisis management bureau at about 8:30 a.m. and headed to a designated location by car.
They then boarded four buses prepared by the Kyoto municipal government and others and headed to a forest park about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away.
At the park, Ground Self-Defense Force personnel checked the "radiation exposure" of the residents with dosimeters. Fujio Yoshida, a section chief of the bureau, said: "It's crucial to evacuate immediately, and as far as possible, when nuclear accidents occur. I hope residents will learn how to do this from today's evacuation drill."