600,000 people would be stranded in Tokyo in event of major quake: Research

A research by the Tokyo metropolitan government has found that temporary facilities in the city can only take in 320,000 out of the 920,000 people who will be stranded should a massive quake happens.
A research by the Tokyo metropolitan government has found that temporary facilities in the city can only take in 320,000 out of the 920,000 people who will be stranded should a massive quake happens.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - If a major earthquake strikes directly beneath Tokyo, only about a third of the people expected to have difficulty returning home can be accommodated in temporary facilities.

A research by the Tokyo metropolitan government has found that temporary facilities in the city can only take in 320,000 out of the 920,000 people who will be stranded should a massive quake happens.

Cooperation from the private business sector, in addition to public facilities, will be essential to fill the gap. However, they are believed to be hesitant to accept people, said the study.

The metropolitan government aims to secure facilities to accommodate the remaining 600,000 people by fiscal 2020.

Achieving that goal depends on a sufficient level of cooperation from the private business sector.

After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, 3.52 million people had difficulty returning home, according to an estimate by the Cabinet Office.

Serious disarray was seen around train stations in central Tokyo and other areas.

If a major quake directly hits Tokyo, the number of people who would face obstacles returning home is predicted to be about 5.17 million, or 1.5 times the number in 2011.

Of these, 920,000 people are expected to be unable to return home or take shelter at their workplace or school.

These people might crowd the roads, which could hinder rescue operations and the transport of emergency supplies.

The metropolitan government is therefore trying to swiftly secure adequate facilities.

However, as of July 1 this year (2017), only 328,374 people could be accommodated at 918 facilities, far from the goal.

"Six years have passed since the (Tohoku) earthquake, so less attention is being paid to the problem of people who won't be able to return home," said an official of the metropolitan government's disaster prevention division.

"Unless private business operators cooperate, it will be difficult to secure facilities to accommodate so many people."

The metropolitan government is calling on business operators to provide their facilities as temporary accommodations under a new system to subsidise expenses for storing emergency provisions.

Officials of the wards where terminal train stations are located have faced difficulties in securing temporary accommodations. Massive crowds of stranded people waited around the train stations after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

"Some companies are reluctant to provide facilities due to fear there could be deaths and injuries as a result of aftershocks," said an official in charge of the issue at the Shinjuku Ward office.

Roppongi Hills, a commercial and residential complex, can accommodate up to 5,000, but such large facilities are few in number.

"If problems occur while accommodating stranded people, the employees of host companies will only feel more burdened," said an official of Minato Ward office. "It's not easy to obtain cooperation from companies," the official said.