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Tokyo preps for ‘Big One’ with new earthquake plan

Tokyo's police force would be part of a rapid-mobilization force of first responders if a major earthquake hits Japan's capital. (cowardlion /

Situated near a major fault line, earthquakes pose a constant threat to Tokyo, a densely packed megacity with more than 13 million residents. reports that a new government plan aims to ensure a “speedy and effective” disaster response when the next major quake hits.

A rapid mobilization force of 140,000 — expandable to 347,000 — would converge on Tokyo and three nearby prefectures, the article says. It would consist of police officers, firefighters and troops from the nation’s Self-Defense Force.

Rather than wait for devastated municipalities to request aid, the responders would automatically clear routes into cities and establish distribution and medical hubs. The goal is to streamline relief efforts and ensure that impacted areas receive assistance within three days of a disaster.

Offices and schools would double as emergency shelters if a quake strikes during the day. There’s even advance planning for a worst-case scenario of hundreds of thousands of fires. “Experts believe there is a 70 percent probability of a magnitude-7 or higher tremor striking the area within the next 30 years,” Nippon reports. The last time a temblor of that caliber struck Tokyo was in 1923. More than 100,000 people were killed; today the death toll could reach 23,000.


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