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Disaster preparedness in Shizuoka cuts death toll predicted for mega-earthquake

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The Shizuoka prefectural government has revised downward by 70% the expected number of deaths from a dreaded mega-earthquake following progress in anti-disaster measures.

Major earthquakes have occurred in the Nankai Trench, an ocean floor trench that passes under the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan from Shizuoka to Kyushu, once every 100 to 150 years. Sooner or later another earthquake is expected.

The Cabinet Office estimates that Shizuoka will be struck by an earthquake of up to 7 on the Japanese earthquake intensity scale, the highest level, accompanied by a tsunami of up to 33 meters.

In fiscal year 2013, the prefectural government predicted that 96,000 people would be killed by the tsunami, 9,300 by building collapses and fires and 200 by landslides, for a total death toll of around 105,000. dead.

Shizuoka’s government has since promoted anti-disaster measures such as building tidal walls and evacuation towers and making homes earthquake resistant.

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At the end of FY2019, the government lowered its projection of the death toll to 33,000 from the FY2013 total. It will step up efforts such as educating citizens on the need for evacuation in the area. aim to achieve a further reduction of 10 percentage points by FY2022.

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Building coastal surge barriers not only takes time and money, but also destroys the landscape. The prefectural government allows each locality to decide on its own anti-tsunami policy and has encouraged the works accordingly.

In Hamamatsu town, a tidal embankment up to 15 meters high has been completed thanks in part to donations from Ichijo Co., a home builder, and other local businesses. Fukuroi, among other towns in the prefecture, is now protected by a 6-meter embankment.

The prefectural government has so far completed coastal dykes with a total length of 32 kilometers, which can reduce the death toll by 16,800, he said.

An Escape Tower in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture | KYODO

On the other hand, tourist sites and fishing ports on the Izu peninsula have decided not to build anti-tsunami dikes, in order to preserve the natural landscapes. The prefectural government therefore constructed evacuation towers, made the buildings usable as evacuation centers, and added traces to some 1,000 higher places so that 76,800 people could escape the tsunami waves.

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But with just 70% of residents saying in a survey they would flee for refuge within 10 minutes of an earthquake, the prefectural government estimates that evacuation towers and other facilities can reduce the death toll by 52,200, taking into account the possibility of people not escaping.

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Evacuation facilities are “only effective when people climb over them,” said an official with the prefectural government’s crisis management policy section. “We need to educate people on the importance of a quick escape.”

The prefectural government has therefore launched a program to help residents prepare their own evacuation plans based on the time they need to reach the nearest refuge as well as their age and physical strength.

With the government also promoting a subsidy program to make homes earthquake resistant, the share of such homes has increased from 82% to 89% in five years from 2013, reducing the expected number of homes by 3,100. deaths resulting from collapsing houses.

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But as many of the remaining homes have older residents, including those who refuse to renovate their homes to make them earthquake resistant, the use of grants is stagnating, according to the prefectural government.

The spread of COVID-19 infections has made homes more resilient to the earthquake, as the elderly will be forced to live together in shelters if a large earthquake strikes and destroys their homes.

In addition to increasing the amount of the grant under the program from fiscal year 2020, the prefectural government is encouraging more people to make their homes earthquake resistant by emphasizing the risks of infection and collapse. .

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