Evacuation drill held on world tsunami day

An evacuation drill for train passengers was held in a coastal town in western Japan on Friday, which is designated as World Tsunami Awareness Day.

The drill was organized by the town of Hirogawa in Wakayama Prefecture and the West Japan Railway Company. Around 100 people, including local elementary school students, took part.

The drill was based on a scenario of a train on the JR Kinokuni Line making an emergency stop due to a massive earthquake originating in the Nankai Trough off Japan's Pacific coast.

Participants descended from the train onto the tracks about 1 meter below, as instructed through a train announcement.

Guided by the train crew, they evacuated to a Shinto shrine on high ground about 500 meters away.

A fifth-grade student said it was good to learn how to evacuate, as he rides trains often.

Yamauchi Takao, an official in charge of safety promotion at the JR West branch in Wakayama, said he hopes the repeated drills with the locals will help them to evacuate safely in the event of an emergency.

The United Nations designated November 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day based on events following an earthquake that hit what is now Hirogawa Town on this day of the old calendar in 1854.

Soy sauce maker Hamaguchi Goryo saved the locals' lives by setting fire to his precious sheaves of rice and guiding them to safety.

He later paid to have a dike built to help protect the locals from further tsunamis.

Also in Hirogawa Town on Friday, a group of about 70 elementary and junior high school students visited the dike. A ritual was held in front of a cenotaph built for Hamaguchi to mourn those who died in past tsunamis.