Japanese prepare for natural disasters - and missiles - in drills

Residents in Takikawa town, located on Japan's northern-most main island of Hokkaido, taking part in an emergency drill yesterday. Japan, one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, carries out disaster drills every year on Sept 1. This year,
Residents in Takikawa town, located on Japan's northern-most main island of Hokkaido, taking part in an emergency drill yesterday. Japan, one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, carries out disaster drills every year on Sept 1. This year, though, there is added urgency because of repeated missile launches by North Korea.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Japan yesterday held its annual exercises to prepare for disasters but it was not just the danger of earthquakes and tsunamis that was on the minds of many people this year - the threat of North Korean missiles also loomed large.

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries and it carries out disaster drills every year on Sept 1, the anniversary of the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 that killed at least 100,000 people and devastated Tokyo.

Military helicopters clattered over Tokyo as the authorities practised for a 7.3-magnitude quake directly under the capital city.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after taking part in a drill: "In order to save even one additional life, we will have preventive measures to tackle various types of disasters, and a well-balanced disaster prevention plan based on self-help, public assistance and cooperation."

Towns in the north of Japan took the opportunity to remind residents what to do, not only when Mother Nature strikes but when a North Korean missile approaches too.

On Tuesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over northern Japan, triggering widespread emergency warnings that jolted millions awake, before it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

Sirens blared again yesterday in towns like Takikawa in the northern-most main island of Hokkaido, and residents took cover indoors, in line with government warnings to seek shelter below ground or in a solid building. Not that residents needed a reminder of the danger.

"The real thing happened before the drills so today, everyone took part with a sense of urgency," one resident of a northern town told a broadcaster.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on , with the headline 'Japanese prepare for natural disasters - and missiles - in drills'. Print Edition | Subscribe