600,000 would be stranded by Tokyo quake

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

People unable to return home are crammed around Shinjuku Station after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

The Yomiuri ShimbunAlthough 920,000 people are expected to have difficulty returning home if a major earthquake strikes directly beneath Tokyo, only about 320,000 can be accommodated in temporary facilities, according to research by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Cooperation from the private business sector, in addition to public facilities, will be essential to fill the gap. However, they are believed to be hesitant to accept people due to problems that could arise.

The metropolitan government aims to secure facilities to accommodate the remaining 600,000 people by fiscal 2020.

Achieving that goal depends on a sufficient level of cooperation from the private business sector.

There were 3.52 million people who had difficulty returning home after the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in 2011, according to an estimate by the Cabinet Office.

Serious disarray was seen around train stations in central Tokyo and other areas.

If a major quake directly hits Tokyo, the number of people who would face obstacles returning home is predicted to be about 5.17 million, or 1.5 times the number in 2011.

Of these, 920,000 people are expected to be unable to return home or take shelter at their workplace or school.

These people might jam roads, and such a situation could hinder rescue operations and the transport of emergency supplies.

The metropolitan government is therefore trying to swiftly secure adequate facilities.

However, as of July 1, only 328,374 people could be accomodated at 918 facilities, far from the goal.

“Six years have passed since the [Tohoku] earthquake, so less attention is being paid to the problem of people who won’t be able to return home,” said an official of the metropolitan government’s disaster prevention division. “Unless private business operators cooperate, it will be difficult to secure facilities to accommodate so many people.”

The metropolitan government is calling on business operators to provide their facilities as temporary accommodations under a new system to subsidize expenses for storing emergency provisions.

Officials of the wards where terminal train stations are located have faced difficulties in securing temporary accommodations. Massive crowds of stranded people waited around the train stations after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

It is predicted 50,000 people would be unable to return home and thus cram around Shinjuku Station, but Shinjuku Ward office has so far secured facilities to temporarily accommodate only 11,000.

The ward office is expected to be able to add facilities for another 4,000, meaning just about 30 percent of the 50,000 expected.

“Some companies are reluctant to provide facilities due to fear there could be deaths and injuries as a result of aftershocks,” said an official in charge of the issue at the ward office.

In Minato Ward, 50,000 people are expected to have no place to go, but the ward office has secured facilities capable of accommodating just 30,000.

Roppongi Hills, a commercial and residential complex, can accommodate up to 5,000, but such large facilities are few in number.

“If problems occur while accommodating stranded people, the employees of host companies will only feel more burdened,” said an official of Minato Ward office.

“It’s not easy to obtain cooperation from companies,” the official said.

Toshima Ward office envisions handling 53,000 stranded people around Ikebukuro Station, but the office has only actually secured facilities for 15,500.

“We continue to ask for cooperation and are considering measures such as allowing stranded people to stay in parks for a long time,” said an official of the ward office.Speech

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