measures: (ANN/The Yomiuri Shimbun)
Companies in Japan's Tokyo metropolitan area should keep their employees at the office for three days if a powerful earthquake hits the area, and stockpile enough food and water for their staff and other people unable to return home, according to guidelines compiled by a high-powered panel.
The guidelines also urge large facilities or companies that agree with local authorities to provide people unable to return home with temporary shelter.
About 5.15 million people were stranded in the Tokyo metropolitan area when the Great East Japan Earthquake in March last year paralyzed major transport networks. The Cabinet Office estimates that if a major earthquake occurs directly beneath the capital - a temblor that would also severely affect neighboring Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures - about 9.89 million people will be unable to go home.
The panel, comprising officials from the Cabinet Office, the Tokyo metropolitan government and other entities, released the nonbinding guidelines Monday.
The guidelines were agreed to by Tokyo and other relevant municipal governments, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), the Real Estate Companies Association of Japan and other industry organizations.
The guidelines urge companies to store three days' worth of food (nine meals) and water (nine liters) and a blanket for each employee. In addition, the companies are requested to keep additional supplies equivalent to 10 per cent of the recommended total on hand to help stranded people who are not their employees.
Municipalities will offer their office buildings, assembly halls and schools to shelter stranded people, while entrance halls of consenting large stores and companies will be designated as temporary shelters.
In these shelters, about 3.3-square-metres should be set aside for every two people, and companies that shelter stranded people will have to stockpile three days' worth of food and water for them.
East Japan Railway Co. plans to turn concourses and other areas of about 200 stations within 30 kilometers of JR Tokyo Station into temporary shelters that can accommodate up to 60,000 people.
Municipal governments will ask administrators of various facilities and companies to offer assistance if disaster strikes.
Terminal stations are expected to become extremely congested as masses of stranded people try to make their way home. Disaster information will be shared through Twitter, Facebook and other websites to keep these people aware of developments and to guide them to nearby temporary shelters, according to the guidelines.
After the initial chaos subsides, the guidelines call for bus and taxi companies to take pregnant women, and elderly and handicapped people home as a priority.
As of the end of August, 21,050 convenience stores and family restaurants along major roads in the Tokyo metropolitan area had been designated as "support stations" for people returning home after a serious disaster. The stations will give people water and let them use their toilets.