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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In Japan, more cities hold evacuation drills to prepare for missile attacks

Schoolchildren leave the compound of their school during an evacuation drill in Abu town, western Japan, Sunday, June 4, 2017. The town on Japan's northwestern coast conducted the drill amid rising fear that a North Korean ballistic missile could hit Japanese soil. (Kyodo News / Associated Press)
Japan News/Yomiuri

Amid North Korea’s repeated missile launches, evacuation drills conducted with the participation of local residents and based on the scenario that a missile strike is imminent are being held in many places across the nation.

Such drills have already been conducted in nine prefectures, and there are more scheduled to be carried out in at least 11 prefectures.

This month, the nation’s first drill in which people will evacuate to an underground mall is scheduled to occur in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.

People who might face such an emergency are required to evacuate in a different way than in the event of an earthquake.

Since the start of this year, North Korea has fired ballistic missiles that left and reentered the atmosphere nine times.

In March, North Korean missiles fell into sea near Japan, including inside the exclusive economic zone off the Oga Peninsula, Akita Prefecture. In the wake of the launches, the Akita prefectural government conducted an evacuation drill that month.

In April, the central government asked other prefectural governments to carry out evacuation drills.

Since then, local governments facing the Sea of Japan and in the Kyushu and other regions that are close to North Korea have conducted evacuation drills one after another.

If the possibility of a missile falling onto the nation arises, the central government will notify the public via the J-Alert early warning system. Via J-Alert, residents at risk will be notified by the community wireless systems of local governments or via emergency warning emails.

The central government has called on people to evacuate into well-built buildings or underground spaces when outdoors so that they will be able to protect themselves from blasts and debris.

But how should people act if there are no well-built buildings or underground spaces nearby?

In a drill on June 12 in Tsubame, Niigata Prefecture, people doing farming work evacuated into clay pipes and the tunnels of agricultural water canals.

In a drill conducted June 9 in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, residents in farming fields and other places took shelter under a raised road intersection.

A Niigata prefectural government official in charge said, “It is important to make judgments depending on each situation.”

On the other hand, some local governments in regions facing the Pacific Ocean have said there is a perception gap, because their sense of urgency is weaker than in regions facing the Sea of Japan.

The Osaka prefectural government said it will be necessary to take into account tourists and foreigners if it holds an evacuation drill.

A drill is planned to be held in an urban area near Takaoka Station in Toyama Prefecture on July 14. Announcements inside the station building will tell people to evacuate, and station clerks and police officers will guide people to an underground mall of about 4,100 square meters in front of the station.

Takaoka Station has JR lines and is a starting point for tram and bus routes. The central government aims to use the drill as a reference point for other drills held by other local governments.

A Cabinet Secretariat official in charge of crisis management said, “We want people to know they should evacuate from buildings to outdoor spaces in an earthquake, but that they should evacuate to underground malls, buildings or concealed places if a missile approaches.”