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Pacific edition, Monday, September 3, 2007

TOKYO — The Tokyo Metropolitan Government held its seventh annual earthquake disaster-prevention drill Saturday, with the U.S. military providing an assist for the second straight year.

At Yokota Air Base, Japanese rescue teams used the flight line as a triage area and relay station to transfer “patients” and equipment from ambulances to helicopters. Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara observed the exercise alongside the U.S. Forces Japan commander, Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, and Col. John Newell, the 374th Airlift Wing commander.

A UH-60 Black Hawk crew from Camp Zama’s 78th Aviation Battalion transported medical and relief supplies to Yokota after stopping at the Hardy Barracks helipad downtown. That’s also where Japanese emergency workers simulated the transfer of an American “victim” from an Air Force helicopter to a nearby hospital via ambulance.

Meanwhile, the USS Tortuga evacuated 65 “stranded” Japanese citizens from affected areas in the city to Yokosuka Naval Base. “This drill provides a great opportunity for the U.S. Navy to work with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,” said Lt. Steve Curry, a 7th Fleet spokesman.

Nearly 23,000 people from various Japanese government, military and civic agencies took part in the drill. It coincides each year with the anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, a massive 8.3-magnitude temblor that killed more than 140,000 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless and devastated Tokyo and its outlying communities.

Saturday’s exercise scenario simulated conditions during a 7.3-magnitude morning earthquake striking the Tama area. In nearby cities, homes and businesses were severely “damaged.” It also shut down roads while cutting off vicinity power, telephone and water lines.

Air Force Col. Anne Morris, a USFJ spokeswoman at Yokota, said the military community should view the Tokyo exercise as the basis for its own preparation in one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries.

“I’m hoping individuals seeing this drill will take it to heart and make sure they have their own personal family protection plan in place,” she said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Hana Kusumoto and Chris Fowler contributed to this story.

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