1.3 mil will have nowhere to go in major Tokyo quake

At least 1.3 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area will likely have no place to take temporary refuge if the area is directly hit by a strong earthquake, according to projections by local governments concerned.

There will only be space to accommodate 270,000 people, or more than 10 per cent of the Tokyo residents whose houses are expected to be damaged in a major quake that has its epicenter in central Tokyo, the projections show.

Combined with those who will be unable to return home due to the suspension of public transportation, local governments concerned will have to secure additional shelters for more than 1.3 million people.

As public facilities have no capacity to accommodate more evacuees, ward governments plan to call on businesses, commercial complexes and hotels to cooperate in accepting people in the event of a major disaster.

According to data compiled by a University of Tokyo research team, there is a 70 per cent probability the Tokyo metropolitan area will be hit directly by a magnitude-7 level earthquake within four years.

The Tokyo metropolitan government projects that 2.39 million residents in Tokyo's 23 wards will be forced to take refuge in shelters as a result of losing their houses or for other reasons if a strong quake directly hits the Tokyo metropolitan area.

However, in 11 wards--including Adachi, Ota and Meguro--even if all public facilities, such as primary and middle schools, are used as temporary shelters, their capacity will fall short by about 276,000 people.

Also, about 4.48 million people are expected to be unable to return home because public transportation services will be suspended.

Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Tokyo metropolitan and ward governments had not anticipated that people who could not return home would take temporary refuge at their shelters in the event of a major disaster.

On March 11, however, people with no means of transportation flocked to temporary shelters designated by ward offices and other parties for local residents.

In an effort to avoid such a situation in the future, the Tokyo metropolitan government and ward governments have asked the private sector in the Tokyo area to have their employees stay at their companies for about three days if a major quake strikes.

In addition to those who work in Tokyo, however, many people visit the Tokyo area for sightseeing and shopping. This made local governments aware of the need to secure places where such visitors can take temporary refuge in a major disaster.

A central government survey showed that 32 per cent of the people who were in the Tokyo metropolitan area on March 11 and could not return home were in the area for shopping and other personal reasons.