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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Regions review disaster prevention

Localities take own steps to ready for nuke crises, tsunami


Regional governments have been rethinking their disaster plans in the wake of the extensive devastation in Tohoku caused by the March 11 mega-quake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis.

News photo
Grim task: Police officers wearing antiradiation suits search for the missing under rubble in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 7. KYODO

The greater-than-anticipated tsunami pulverized communities along a wide stretch of the northeastern and eastern Pacific coast, leaving more than 28,000 people dead or missing and crippling the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which continues to spew radiation.

As regional governments have drawn up their disaster-preparedness plans based on the central government's basic outline, some local officials have called for the state to take the lead in mapping out new guidelines as there are limits to what localities can do on their own.

But some regional governments have expressed willingness to go ahead and begin work to revise their schemes on their own initiative.

"If the central government does not proceed with revising its guidelines, we will do so on our own," said a Hokkaido prefectural official.

A Fukui prefectural official said: "We cannot just wait. We will start with what we can do," adding that the local government will review the evacuation manuals of coastal municipalities and ask those without a guide to compile one promptly.

Among municipalities, Oita Prefecture's Usuki, which faces Usuki Bay, is reassessing its disaster measures based on a scenario for 10-meter high tsunami, rather than the 3 meters in the current supposition.

The Usuki Municipal Government is looking to clarify the elevation of roads to secure safe tsunami evacuation routes, and moving to higher ground some operations at the municipal office, which is near the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s nuclear crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 plant has also forced regional governments to prepare for accidents at atomic complexes in their proximity.

The Kyoto Prefectural Government plans to double its emergency planning zone to a provisional 20-km radius around the Takahama nuclear plant operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. in neighboring Fukui Prefecture.

The Kagawa Prefectural Government is considering including in its disaster-preparedness plan a reference to Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata atomic plant, which is more than 130 km away in Ehime Prefecture.

In Hokkaido, meanwhile, eight towns and a village located within a 10- to 30-km radius from the Tomari nuclear complex run by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. have set up a consultative committee on their own and are considering conducting joint emergency evacuation drills.

In addition to evacuation manuals, regional governments hosting or located close to nuclear plants must also think of measures to prevent damage from tsunami.

An official Niigata Prefecture, where Tepco's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex is located, said: "The (March 11) disaster was beyond our assumptions. How big a disaster should we assume? Everything is difficult."

An Aomori prefectural official sought a grand scheme by the central government, saying prefectures cannot devise ultimate countermeasures without the state's input.

"Should we build a seawall that can withstand a tsunami as high as 20 meters or focus more on aspects such as strengthening our measures for evacuation?" said the official of prefecture, which hosts Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Higashidori nuclear power plant.

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