Tokyo commuters prepare for disaster

The Tokyo metropolitan government conducted its first large-scale drill for stranded commuters Friday, which involved about 10,000 participants at three terminal train stations--Shinjuku, Tokyo and Ikebukuro.

The drill was held to build on lessons learned after millions of people in Tokyo were stranded on March 11 when public transport systems were paralyzed by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The drill's aim was to deter stranded commuters from forcing themselves to walk home by allowing them to wait inside train stations or nearby facilities. Commuters were assisted by disaster-related information that was displayed on large screens in public areas and on one-segment TV broadcasts available on a range of media including cell phones.

The metropolitan government said it will examine the drill results for use in future disaster-management plans.

The drill, which began at 10 am, used the scenario that public transport had been paralyzed by an earthquake with an intensity from lower 6 to upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale, with an epicenter in the northern part of Tokyo Bay.

As part of the drill, people who were unable to enter the train stations were guided to public facilities, such as metropolitan government office buildings, where they could stay temporarily.

Those inside the train stations, as well as offices and department stores, were instructed to remain indoors until the area was deemed safe. They were given provisions of drinking water and food.

A large screen near the east exit of JR Shinjuku Station displayed information about the earthquake and recommended evacuation destinations.

This information was also provided via the one-segment broadcasts and websites such as Twitter. Participants used this information to head for metropolitan government buildings and other temporary shelters.

About 3.52 million people were stranded in Tokyo after the March 11 disaster, according to an estimate by the Cabinet Office.