Not just Covid: Earthquakes, typhoons pose threat at Tokyo Olympics

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FILE – An anti-Olympic activist holds a paper of no Olympics in Tokyo 2020 2021” in a protest exterior the metropolitan authorities constructing, 30 days earlier than the Olympic Video games opening ceremonies, in Tokyo on June 23, 2021. (Picture by Philip FONG / AFP)

The coronavirus would possibly prime the dangers on the Tokyo Olympics, however organizers in Japan produce other lethal, unpredictable threats to deal with: pure disasters.

Japan is recurrently rattled by earthquakes and battered by typhoons, and consultants warn that catastrophe preparation for a significant occasion just like the Video games mustn’t take a again seat due to the virus.

“For organizers, an infection measures are an pressing problem,” Hirotada Hirose, a specialist in catastrophe threat research, informed AFP.

“However the dangers of a significant earthquake mustn’t be forgotten when you will have an Olympics hosted by Japan,” added Hirose, professor emeritus at Tokyo Lady’s Christian College.

Japan sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fireplace”, an arc of intense seismic exercise that stretches all through southeast Asia and throughout the Pacific Basin.

The nation can be residence to quite a few lively volcanos and is recurrently hit by typhoons within the season that runs from round Might to October, peaking in August and September.

When Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2019, three pool matches had been canceled due to Hurricane Hagibis, which killed greater than 100 individuals and prompted widespread flooding.

Tokyo and surrounding areas sit precariously on the junction of shifting tectonic plates, and consultants and officers recurrently warn residents that the subsequent “Large One” might strike at any time.

Earlier than final 12 months’s postponement, large-scale workout routines had been organized to rehearse the response to an enormous quake ripping by way of Tokyo Bay.

“There was an earthquake. Please keep calm and defend your self,” blared a message in Japanese and English at one venue.

“Taking motion in a panic might result in hazard.”

Tokyo 2020 says it has contingency plans for numerous pure disasters, “prioritizing the protection of spectators and other people concerned”, although they declined to supply additional particulars.

The dangers are actual, mentioned Toshiyasu Nagao, an professional on earthquake prediction research with Tokai College’s Institute of Oceanic Analysis and Growth.

“It will be no shock if an enormous earthquake hit instantly beneath the capital tomorrow,” he informed AFP.

“And it’s not simply in Tokyo, the dangers of an earthquake are all over the place in Japan.”

‘A bit nerve-wracking’

Seven earthquakes of magnitude six or larger have hit Japan up to now this 12 months, together with a 7.3-magnitude quake in February, and a March jolt that sparked a tsunami advisory.

Japan can be haunted by the 2011 quake which triggered a tsunami that killed greater than 18,500 individuals and prompted the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

Tokyo’s authorities says town’s everlasting Olympic venues characteristic the most recent expertise in case of catastrophe.

The $340 million Ariake volleyball area, for instance, has shock-absorbing large rubber cushions to maintain it protected even throughout violent shaking, and is licensed to be used as a shelter.

Waterfront services, together with the Olympic Village, are constructed on embankments or protected by sea partitions that may stand up to a tsunami of virtually two meters (6.5 ft) — the utmost peak predicted inside Tokyo Bay, town says.

In some methods, the pandemic has made potential catastrophe response simpler as nearly all followers will probably be barred from the Video games, making the prospect of mass spectator evacuations unlikely.

However some 70,000 athletes, media and officers will nonetheless be in Tokyo for the Olympics and Paralympics, and controlling an infection dangers throughout an emergency response may very well be tough.

Japanese authorities have already up to date their emergency insurance policies, limiting house at shelters to keep away from crowding and stocking up on masks and disinfectant.

“Evacuation administration can instantly contradict an infection management measures,” warned Sakiko Kanbara, professor of catastrophe nursing at College of Kochi.

“We’ve to bear in mind {that a} catastrophe in unusual occasions is kind of completely different from one in a pandemic.”

Nonetheless, emergency preparation is so deeply embedded in Japanese life that Tokyo even has a number of catastrophe simulation facilities the place guests can expertise synthetic jolts and apply evacuation.

On a current go to to the Ikebukuro Life Security Studying Centre, English instructor Mike Diakakis mentioned he had discovered a quake in Tokyo earlier this 12 months “somewhat nerve-wracking”.

“You don’t actually give it some thought till you’ve skilled it,” he mentioned.

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