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Editorial: People of Japan must be ready to protect own lives, those of others in disaster

Sept. 1, which marks the 95th anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, is Disaster Prevention Day.

In the torrential rains that hit western Japan this past July, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued emergency warnings for heavy rain in 11 prefectures, urging residents to be on alert for the kind of heavy rainfall that occurs only once in several decades. However, many residents did not evacuate, increasing the damage.

There are a growing number of cases of highly localized showers, torrential rain and squalls. Heavy rain of at least 50 millimeters per hour was observed an average of 174 times per 1,000 monitoring points of the Automated Meteorological Data Acquisition System (AMEDAS) annually from 1976 to 1985. The number shot up about 40 percent to 238 times on average from 2008 to 2017. Such heavy rain could cause water to well up from storm drain manholes. This sudden increase in heavy rain, which is believed to have been caused by global warming, will likely continue.

The public should seriously consider how to prepare for flooding as abnormal weather continues. Nevertheless, society as a whole does not have a sufficient sense of crisis even though it is an important disaster prevention issue.

Many areas of big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka are below sea level at high tide. In concrete-clad urban areas, it is possible for large amounts of water to flow quickly into smaller rivers, and floods could quickly result from localized torrential rain.

Our worries are not limited to floods. Preparing for a possible Nankai Trough earthquake and a powerful temblor directly beneath the Tokyo metro area are urgent tasks. It is essential to discuss not only ways to lessen casualties but also measures to minimize the impact of such disasters on society and the economy.

This country also has many volcanos. A multitude of volcanic earthquakes was observed on Kuchinoerabu Island in southern Japan's Kagoshima Prefecture last month. It is important to be prepared for disasters triggered by volcanos.

Recent technological advancement in the meteorological field is remarkable. Each and every individual should be sensitive to weather information obtained through this technology, and utilize it to judge whether and how to evacuate.

Self-help is important in protecting lives. However, many elderly people and others who had difficulties evacuating on their own lost their lives in the torrential rains that hit western Japan.

Attention should be focused on mutual help among neighbors to enhance local communities' ability to lessen the damage of major natural disasters. As part of such efforts, some neighborhood associations have set up their own rain gauge systems and conduct evacuation drills based on hazard maps released by local bodies.

It is too late to respond when danger is imminent. As residents of the disaster-prone Japanese archipelago, we must be aware of the importance of being prepared for serious natural disasters to lessen damage from such cataclysms.

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