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Japan's Kanagawa Pref. mistakenly sends out emergency tsunami info to cell phones 20 times

Text messages mistakenly sent out by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government late at night following an undersea volcano eruption off Tonga are seen on Jan. 16, 2022. (Mainichi)

YOKOHAMA -- East Japan's Kanagawa Prefectural Government mistakenly sent out emergency tsunami information to cell phones as many as 20 times throughout the early hours of Jan. 16 following an undersea volcano eruption off the southern Pacific nation of Tonga.

    A tsunami advisory was issued for the coastal areas along Sagami Bay and on the Miura Peninsula in the prefecture. The urgent information was sent out up to 20 times between 12:15 a.m. and around 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 16, sparking a spate of complaints about the texts on Twitter such as: "I can't sleep because of the noise." The prefectural government announced that afternoon that there had been an error in the information distribution system.

    According the prefectural government's life safety and disaster prevention bureau, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) sends out emergency information when a tsunami warning is issued, and the prefectural government is supposed to take over from the JMA when the warning is downgraded to an advisory.

    This time, however, when a tsunami advisory was issued for some parts of Kanagawa Prefecture, the prefectural government began to send out emergency texts to cell phone users in 16 municipalities along the sea, including areas where not even an advisory had been issued. It kept sending messages every time tsunami information for areas outside the prefecture was updated.

    The JMA's "tsunami forecast," which is issued when sea-level changes of no more than 20 centimeters are expected, among other reasons, is not supposed to be covered by Kanagawa Prefecture's email alert system. But the emergency text was sent out a total of 20 times even in Tokyo Bay's inner bay areas including the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki, which were not subject to advisories. This was caused by a glitch in the information distribution system, and the problem has since apparently been fixed.

    Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa issued a statement saying, "We've caused tremendous trouble. We deeply apologize especially to entrance exam-takers for causing great anxiety during this crucial period."

    (Japanese original by Nami Takata, Yokohama Bureau)

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