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Okinawa ‘not prepared’ for disaster, says researcher

Date Posted: 2004-11-05

Okinawa’s not ready to react to a large scale disaster such as a typhoon or earthquake.

That’s the finding of Ryukyu University Professor Yuuzou Katou, who says his investigation of seven Okinawa cities finds them unprepared.

He says none of the cities have stockpiles of foods to serve citizens in the event of an earthquake or devastating typhoon, both of which have pounded mainland Japan within the past month leaving thousands homeless.

The City Disaster Prevention rules specify that there should be a foods stockpile capable of serving five percent of the population for a three-day period. Professor Yuuzou says there’s almost nothing stockpiled on Okinawa.

The magnitude of disasters confronting mainland Japan is triggering strong focus on Okinawa. “There are activity beds on coal in Okinawa, and it’s very possible there could be an earthquake like there was in Niigata a few weeks ago,” says the professor. Katou says there is a lot to be done to protect Okinawa’s citizens.

He expressed surprise that there is so little preparedness on this island. He says disaster prevention’s almost an afterthought, although acknowledging that Naha and Tomishiro cities did make support agreements with civilian vendors. The question is, will those vendors be capable of providing service when disaster strikes.

Professor Katou says essential lifestyle goods, including food, water, blankets, first aid and emergency power sources, should be immediately available at evacuation locations.

Naha City, Okinawa City and Urasoe City have a few foods stockpiled, but only for a few people. Those stocks include only 4,200 cans of hard breads, 1,200 two-litre bottles, rice for 2,700 people, and 2,640 blankets. Those items were only stockpiled in recent times.

Okinawa City has a contract with Okinawa Coop Supermarket, and “when the disaster happens, not only food but daily goods must be delivered to the City,” notes an official, “so people can get fresh food and new goods.”

The professor notes that foods have expiration dates, so Naha City and Tomishiro City say they must make contracts with vendors to rotate the stocks.

“Yes we know, it’s needed to stockpile for disaster, but we don’t have enough budget for that, said one official. “It’s a financial reason we can’t handle.” Okinawa’s Prefectural Government is in no better shape. It has a small stock of foods and blankets, as well as some containers, but not enough to go around to towns and villages. The prefecture says it’s each city, town and village’s responsibility to maintain adequate emergency stockpiles.

The prefecture also says each family should keep a three-day stock of foods and other supplies in their homes at all times. They say the stocks should include water, batteries, lights, a portable radio, blankets, cookies, rice, medicines and spare clothes. They urge all residents to check their emergency setups, and to start one if not now in existence.

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