Tokyo: Disaster drill at stations, companies

Over 5 million people in Tokyo and its vicinity had been unable to get home before midnight on March 11 last year.

Tokyo: About 10,000 people took part in a large-scale drill in downtown Tokyo on Friday morning aimed at avoiding the chaotic overcrowding at train stations and on streets that left many stranded following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The Tokyo metropolitan government was among the key organisers of the drill, which was held in areas near Shinjuku, Tokyo and Ikebukuro stations based on the scenario that a magnitude 7.3 quake at 10 am with its epicentre in the northern part of Tokyo Bay had halted public transportation.

Government data showed that more than 5 million people in Tokyo and its vicinity had been unable to get home before midnight on March 11 last year.

In the Ikebukuro and Shinjuku areas, including department stores and business offices, participants checked to see if they could send and receive disaster information using their cellphones and handsets. In Shinjuku, participants were guided to shelters via Twitter and Facebook online services.

At Shinjuku Station, the staff of East Japan Railway Co guided 130 participants to concourses for evacuation from platforms while preparing emergency goods including blankets for 30,000 evacuees. The company was criticised for shutting down stations on the day of the March disaster.

The metropolitan government said it was the first time a disaster drill of this kind had been conducted simultaneously at more than one station for those having difficulty getting home.

At Mitsubishi Corp, a major trading house in Tokyo`s Marunouchi business district, about 150 workers participated in the drill.

Hiroshi Komagano, manager at the company`s disaster prevention headquarters, said participation in the drill helped employees at the company recognise steps necessary to deal with a possible major crisis.

"More than 1,000 workers couldn`t make it home smoothly after the March 11 disaster and food distribution was confused," Komagano said.

Some participants in the drill headed home on foot to Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

The drill also involved vessels of the Maritime Self-Defence Force, the Japan Coast Guard and the US military carrying evacuees from Tokyo`s bay area to Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.