Only about half of the municipalities along the vulnerable Pacific coast have tsunami evacuation plans.
In 2002, the central government asked 197 municipalities in 17 prefectures vulnerable to tsunami generated by Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai earthquakes to compile plans.
However, according to a survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun, only 99 of those municipal governments said they had compiled a plan.
Local governments are supposed to designate areas where tsunami are expected to strike as well as to forecast the time a tsunami is expected to hit after a quake. The governments also are required to include public facilities that will serve as evacuation centers as well as routes residents should take to evacuate in their plans.
Once the tsunami evacuation plans are compiled, the local governments are supposed to inform local residents.
According to the Asahi survey, in which all 197 municipal governments responded, there are 83, or about 40 percent of the total, in which either the municipal government building, or local police or fire station are located within areas tsunami are expected to inundate.
The damage caused by the tsunami after the Great East Japan Earthquake has shown the importance of evacuating residents as quickly as possible.
The questionnaires were sent to the municipal governments between late June and early July.
Many of the 99 municipal governments that said tsunami evacuation plans had been compiled are those where damage from tsunami is expected to be significant because they directly face the Pacific Ocean.
The town of Kuroshio in Kochi Prefecture compiled its plan based on a prediction that a tsunami of about 8 meters would strike.
Other municipal governments that put together evacuation plans include Kaiyo in Tokushima Prefecture and Owase in Mie Prefecture.
A total of 69 municipal governments went further and began compiling more detailed evacuation plans by neighborhood.
The 98 municipal governments that said they had still not compiled evacuation plans are distant from the region where the focus of the Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai quakes are forecasted to be.
These communities include many in Kanagawa Prefecture, where damage from the predicted tsunami is estimated to be not very large, as well as in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions and Oita Prefecture that face the Seto Inland Sea.
However, after a tsunami more than double the height of past forecasts hit the Tohoku region after the Great East Japan Earthquake, 28 municipal governments have decided to compile evacuation plans.
In addition, 43 municipal governments that had already compiled a plan said they would review their plans.
The village of Kozushima, which is part of the Izu island chain, said it would totally revise its evacuation plan.
Municipal government buildings were located within areas where a tsunami was expected to cover in 53 municipalities, while 42 municipal governments said their fire stations were located in that area and 34 said the local police station was situated in the area.
The Central Disaster Management Council plans to revise its tsunami forecast in the event of a Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai earthquake by the summer of 2012.
However, 43 municipal governments said they would temporarily change their forecasts of the height of a tsunami expected to hit even before the results of the council's new forecast are released.
(This article was written by Takeshi Amano, Kosuke So and Ken Shiohara.)
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