Okinawa holds simulated drill to evacuate residents in event of attack

Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa has conducted its first exercise simulating an evacuation from remote islands in the event of an armed attack.

Municipalities from the Sakishima Islands, including Ishigaki and Miyakojima cities, took part in the drill on Friday at Okinawa's prefectural office. The islands are close to Taiwan. Officials from fire and police departments as well as the Cabinet Secretariat also participated.

The simulation was based on a scenario that the security situation surrounding Japan deteriorates and the central government may designate the islands as areas where residents must be evacuated out of the prefecture.

Participants confirmed that each municipality would first consider evacuation routes and methods, and the prefecture would make arrangements with transportation operators to secure enough carrying capacity for evacuees.

They decided that residents on Okinawa's main island would take shelter indoors, and about 120,000 people on the Sakishima Islands would evacuate to Japan's southwestern main island of Kyushu.

Prefectural officials estimated that transportation capacity could be 2.36 times higher than the usual level if the numbers of flights and passengers were raised to the maximum.

Municipality officials reported how to evacuate their residents to areas outside each island.

The drill was aimed at confirming the steps in chronological order up to when residents start evacuating.

An Okinawa Prefecture official in charge of disaster management noted after Friday's exercise that many issues still need to be addressed regarding evacuations. He said one challenge is how to ensure coordination with local governments in Kyushu and elsewhere where residents evacuate to.