Sunday, August 27, 2006

US Troops to Assist with Tokyo Quake Disaster Drill

U.S. troops to assist with Tokyo quake disaster drill

The Yomiuri Shimbun

U.S. forces stationed in Japan will, for the first time, take part in an earthquake disaster drill to be held by the Tokyo metropolitan government on Sept. 1--Disaster Prevention Day--it was decided Friday.
The U.S. forces cooperated in conducting relief activities for the 2004 Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake and the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, but Sept. 1 will mark the first time they have dispatched their units and ships to a local government disaster drill.
The drill will be based on a scenario that a large earthquake has occurred under a heavily populated area of Tokyo, leaving many people unable to return home.
The metropolitan government exercise will be held at the same time as joint drills organized by Tokyo and seven local governments around Tokyo. The main drill venue will serve as the central venue for all of the exercises.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also will participate in the joint exercise.
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who requested the participation of the U.S. Army, said it would be a good idea to utilize the ability of the U.S. forces because the facility is located nearby.
The main drill will focus on determining the best way to direct victims away from the disaster zone. If a quake hits Tokyo, about 5 million people, including tourists, are expected to find themselves stuck in disaster areas and unable to get home.
The metropolitan government has prepared a plan to transfer the elderly and children to nearby prefectures by sea when other means of transportation are paralyzed and public transportation routes, such as trainlines and subways, have been made impassible. In the upcoming exercise, it will practice this plan by transporting victims by river and sea.
For the exercise, the U.S. Army will dispatch a vessel to Tokyo Port from the Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture. Thirty metropolitan government officials, posing as victims, will be taken on board and transported to Yokosuka.
Two helicopters from the Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, will deliver relief materials, such as medicines, to a drill venue in Adachi Ward and the U.S. Army's temporary heliport at the Akasaka Press Center in Minato Ward, both in Tokyo.
A metropolitan government official in charge of the exercise said: "If a major earthquake hits directly below a populated area of Tokyo, firefighters and the Self-Defense Forces won't be able to deal [with all of the victims]. So we'll request logistic support from the U.S. forces."
If a strong earthquake hits Tokyo, securing the city's central functions for administration and business would become a major issue.
In September's drill, central bank Gov. Toshihiko Fukui will, for the first time, report to Koizumi about the situation of settlement function via a wireless videoconferencing system that connects the Bank of Japan headquarters with the government's disaster headquarters.


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