Record 25,000 Take Part in Tokyo Disaster Drills

Armored personnel carriers drove down the main street in the Ginza shopping district on Sunday while cars of an Oedo subway train were filled with Ground Self-Defense Force personnel as the Tokyo metropolitan government conducted its first large-scale disaster drills.

Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense forces played the main role in mock rescue operations that were carried out even as residents of Miyakejima island, located about 200 kilometers south of Tokyo, were continuing an evacuation due to fears of intensified volcanic activity on the island.

An unprecedented 25,000 personnel, including about 7,100 from the SDF, police officers and firefighters, joined rescue operations at 10 locations in the metropolitan area.

The metropolitan government plans to make the drills an annual event and ask the SDF to assign as many or more personnel to take part in next year's exercises.

The "Big Rescue 2000" event was proposed by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who stressed that it is imperative for the metropolitan government to cooperate with the SDF when a major earthquake hits Tokyo.

Sunday's drill was conducted on the assumption that an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 7.2 on the open-ended Richter scale, or a 6 on the Japanese seismic scale, had struck the capital and totally paralyzed administrative centers, including the prime minister's residence. Ishihara then called on the general in command of the first division of the GSDF to mobilize personnel for rescue operations.

In the meantime, about 1,200 people from civil organizations and labor unions held a rally opposing SDF participation in the disaster drills because it will lead to the possible mobilization of SDF personnel to maintain public order.

People's Daily Online ---