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Games organizers keep alert to natural disasters

China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-13 09:30
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Police officers conduct a security sweep of the Tokyo Olympic Main Press Center in Tokyo, Japan, July 12, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO-The coronavirus might top the risk list at the Tokyo Olympics, but organizers in Japan have other deadly, unpredictable threats to contend with: natural disasters.

Japan is regularly rattled by earthquakes and battered by typhoons, and experts warned that disaster preparation for a major event like the Games should not take a back seat because of the virus.

"For organizers, infection measures are an urgent challenge," said Hirotada Hirose, a specialist in disaster risk studies and professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman's Christian University.

"But the risks of a major earthquake must not be forgotten when you have an Olympics hosted by Japan."

Japan sits on the Pacific "ring of fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches throughout Southeast Asia and across the Pacific Basin.

The country is also home to numerous active volcanos and is regularly hit by typhoons in the season that runs from May to October.

When Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2019, three pool matches were canceled because of Typhoon Hagibis, which killed more than 100 people and caused widespread flooding.

Tokyo and surrounding areas sit precariously at the junction of shifting tectonic plates, and experts and officials regularly warn residents that the next "big one" could strike at any time.

Before last year's postponement, large-scale exercises were organized to rehearse the response to a massive quake ripping through Tokyo Bay.

"There has been an earthquake. Please stay calm and protect yourself," blared a message in Japanese and English at one venue.

"Taking action in a panic may lead to danger."

Prioritizing safety

The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said it has contingency plans for various natural disasters, "prioritizing the safety of spectators and people involved", though they declined to offer further details.

Toshiyasu Nagao, an expert on earthquake prediction studies with Tokai University's Institute of Oceanic Research and Development, said the risks are real.

"It would be no surprise if a big earthquake hit directly beneath the capital tomorrow," he said.

Japan is also haunted by the 2011 quake which triggered a tsunami that killed more than 18,500 people and caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tokyo's government said the city's permanent Olympic venues feature the latest technology in case of disaster.

Agencies via Xinhua

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