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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Sugu Nigete!

November 23, 2016


VOX POPULI: Jolting reminder that the next 'Big One' is never far away

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.



In big letters on the television screen were the words "Sugu Nigete!" (Flee right now!). The thought of another killer tsunami hitting Japan filled me with dread.

Tsunami were observed along a broad coastal stretch of eastern Japan, triggered by a major earthquake that struck in the early morning of Nov. 22.

In Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, many people fled to higher ground. A survivor of the tsunami of March 2011 said with emotion, "I don't want to lose anything more in a tsunami." Another said, "I fled with nothing but the clothes on my back."

I was able to breathe a bit easier after hearing there was no significant tsunami damage.

"You can never tell when a quake will strike, so you just have to be mentally prepared at all times," said Rinka Imamura, a first-year student of Ogata Senior High School in Kochi Prefecture.

Imamura will be chairing an international senior high school students' summit on tsunami preparedness, slated to be held Nov. 25 and 26 in the coastal town of Kuroshio where her school is located. The biggest tsunami the town could feasibly expect is estimated at 34 meters.

On Nov. 5 this year, World Tsunami Awareness Day was observed worldwide for the first time. The date was chosen for what happened on Nov. 5, 1854, according to the old lunar calendar, in Wakayama Prefecture: Just before a tsunami was about to hit, a local businessman warned his neighbors and set fire to sheaves of rice straw to guide people to higher ground.

I hope participants in the students' summit in Kuroshio will share all of their thoughts with their peers from around the world.

Steady progress is being made in promoting disaster preparedness among the public. But during the Nov. 22 incident, traffic backups slowed and disrupted the evacuation process. And it was also revealed how difficult it was for the elderly to flee at short notice.

We all need to think about what we need to do when we must evacuate immediately.

It has been five years and eight months since the Great East Japan Earthquake, but seismic activity will continue in the region.

We must remind ourselves that the March 2011 disaster is not just a piece of history, and we might be living on borrowed time, so to speak, until the next "Big One" strikes.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 23

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