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Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008
Estimated 590,000 people take part in nationwide quake drills
By MASAMI ITO
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura kicked off a government-sponsored earthquake drill Monday by announcing that a hypothetical magnitude 8.6 temblor had struck off Wakayama Prefecture an hour earlier at 6:30 a.m.
According to the Cabinet Office, about 590,000 people nationwide took part in the annual drill for Disaster Prevention Day, held every Sept. 1.
This year's drill was held in the wake of several major disasters, both inside and outside Japan, including the powerful earthquake in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures in June and in Sichuan Province, China, in May.
The hypothetical earthquake topped the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7 in Aichi, Mie, Wakayama and Kochi prefectures, causing serious damage from the Tokai region to Kyushu, Machimura told reporters.
The drill began at 7 a.m. at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, where a crisis management center was set up. Following Machimura's news conference, Cabinet ministers met to set a course of action.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda addressed the public two hours after the mock earthquake, stressing the government would do everything in its power to help the victims.
"I would like to ask the public to act calmly following this major disaster and to cooperate in the urgent life-saving and firefighting activities," Fukuda, wearing a light blue disaster work uniform, said.
The drill was staged mainly in Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture, where Self-Defense Forces personnel, police, firefighters and the coast guard participated in various rescue operations, including responding to a train derailment and a building collapse. Fukuda went to Kishiwada and inspected relief measures.
Other drills were held in Shizuoka Prefecture and Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
In Tokyo drill, armored vehicles cruised through Ginza while firefighters staged a rescue of shoppers in a department store.
Disaster Prevention Day marks the anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake on Sept. 1, 1923. The magnitude 7.9 temblor destroyed large parts of Tokyo and Yokohama and left more than 100,000 people dead.
INFORMATION FROM AP ADDED