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Hiroshima city gov't creating multilingual app to help evacuate from unfamiliar places

A visualization of the evacuation guidance app for the city of Hiroshima being developed is seen in this image provided by the Hiroshima Municipal Government.

HIROSHIMA -- In an attempt to make evacuation measures more helpful to people during a natural disaster, the city government here is progressing with the development of an instructional app under the working name "Hinanjo e GO!" which roughly translates to the "Go to the evacuation center!"

With an aim to convey accurate information about the area to people there during a disaster but not familiar with their surroundings, the app will provide users with the quickest route to an evacuation center from their current location. It is also set to include functionality to view live camera feeds of rivers, enabling people to confirm if the water level appears to be dangerous.

In the torrential rains that hit western Japan last summer, some people died after getting caught in landslides in areas away from their homes. Residents have also raised concerns about being in a part of town they don't know well and having to find an evacuation center, leading employees at the city government's crisis management office to propose developing an app.

In September, a general accounting supplementary budget bill including 29 million yen set aside for costs to create the app was submitted to the city council, with an aim to begin providing services through it from April 2020.

It is expected that the program will automatically check for the closest established evacuation center to the user's current location, and then a single touch will bring up a route to it. If the person using the route then strays from it due to roads being unusable, it will reportedly be able to check again to display another path to the center. The app will also be usable in English, Mandarin and Korean and foreign tourists visiting will be encouraged to use it.

Currently, the regions set to be included in its range are all in the city of Hiroshima, but the municipal government is considering making contact with neighboring towns and cities to expand the app's scope.

Yoshihiro Kanagawa, the head of the city government's disaster prevention department, said, "We want this to be useful for people who can't get the relevant information from television and other sources when they're out of the house."

(Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)

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