Saying Japan’s very survival is at stake, two advisory panels urged the government to take immediate action--including finding an alternative capital--to prepare for an earthquake that could devastate the Tokyo area.
The working groups are discussing measures to deal with massive quakes that could be triggered by movement along the Nankai Trough as well as one directly under the capital.
In an unusual move, the groups called on the government to pass legislation for the quake-preparedness measures even before estimating the number of fatalities and damage from such temblors.
"There is a need for the entire society to deal with the two quakes that are expected to cause extensive damage," according to interim reports released on July 19 by the two working groups, respectively.
Passage of special measures laws would allow a wide area covered by the studies to take effective measures to deal with the possibility of the huge earthquakes.
The Nankai Trough extends from Suruga Bay near Shizuoka Prefecture to off the coast of Kyushu in southern Japan.
Special measures laws were passed in 1978 to deal with a possible Tokai quake and in 2002 to prepare for Tonankai and Nankai quakes. But there is no law for a unified response to a Nankai Trough quake with an expected magnitude over 9.0.
One estimate for possible damage from a Nankai Trough quake was 400,000 fatalities.
The two working groups have yet to come up with their own damage estimates. But their recommendation for swift passage of legislation underscores their sense of urgency from not being able to pinpoint when such a destructive quake might hit.
In preparing for a crippling quake directly under Tokyo, the interim report proposes selecting beforehand alternative sites that could provide back-up for capital functions. Among the cities named as possible alternative capitals were Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.
The interim report also called for measures to deal with long-period seismic ground movements and the huge number of people who will likely be stranded in Tokyo after a major quake.
It urged the government to secure revenues for the necessary measures, but it did not specify a figure. In the current fiscal year, about 480 billion yen ($6.1 billion) has been set aside for such measures.
The working group looking at a possible Nankai Trough quake is expected to release its estimates for fatalities and injuries as well as structural damage in late August. However, the group dealing with the quake expected to hit directly under Tokyo has not reached the stage of presenting specific estimates.
The interim report, warning that a Nankai Trough quake could trigger a tsunami 20 to 30 meters high, called on areas with indented coastlines to construct levees and move schools and social welfare facilities to higher ground. It also suggested building those structures to greater heights.
In addition, the reports said construction of straight evacuation routes on flatter areas are needed, as well as measures to make evacuations using cars more efficient.
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