Air Force base on Okinawa opens gates for first tsunami evacuation drill in 5 years
Stars and Stripes September 18, 2023
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Air Force’s 18th Wing opened its gates to an adjacent community over the weekend to rehearse an evacuation in case of an earthquake and tsunami.
Approximately 100 residents of Chatan, a city of about 29,000 people south of Kadena, entered the base under an unrelenting morning sun and made the milelong trek uphill to Marek Park, approximately 200 feet above sea level, 18th Wing spokesman Jin Hiya said during Saturday’s drill.
A Japanese volunteer stood on the hilltop at 43.3 meters — about 142 feet — the height of a tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011. The disaster killed more than 20,000 people.
The disaster preparedness exercise — the first at Kadena since before the COVID-19 pandemic — was designed to test and improve evacuation procedures, wing deputy commander Col. Joshua Lundeby said afterwards.
“Our bottom line is to try to be as quick as possible,” he said. “Exercises like this will help us to continue to get better.”