AKITA – Amid a growing missile threat from North Korea, the northern city of Oga, Akita Prefecture, held Japan’s first-ever evacuation drill for local residents, gaming out a scenario in which Pyongyang lobs a ballistic missile into the waters nearby.
The drill came as the North continues to make advances in its missile and nuclear weapons programs, having carried out a number of launches over the past year, with its latest test-firing earlier this month.
Conducted on the premise of a ballistic missile falling into Japanese waters off Akita, the drill was aimed at promptly relaying information while facilitating the swift and safe evacuation of residents.
Hosted by the prefectural and city governments, the drill saw local officials direct 110 residents and other participants in a district of Oga, which faces the sea, to evacuate to a public hall and elementary school.
The central government relayed emergency information to the local municipalities partly through the J-Alert emergency advisory service, which is also employed in the event of disasters.
The city then used its wireless system to broadcast the information it received via loudspeakers and inform residents, who had registered ahead of time for such information, through their smartphones and other gadgets.
While the central government has been carrying out drills to relay news alerts to municipalities using the J-Alert system, Friday’s drill marked the first residents had taken part in an actual evacuation drill.
At a local elementary school, 44 students who were on the school’s premises were rushed to its gymnasium following the broadcast.
Shin Kikuchi, the school’s principal, expressed hope that key information will be relayed smoothly by the central and local governments, as the students must depend on authorities for such details.
On March 6, North Korea simultaneously launched four ballistic missiles, three of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Tokyo estimated that one of the missiles fell into the Sea of Japan just 200 km off the Ishikawa Prefecture’s Noto Peninsula.