Gov't plans to reduce victims of possible Nankai Trough quake by 80%

The Japanese government has outlined a 10-year program aimed at reducing by 80 percent the number of victims from a possible major earthquake focusing on the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan, officials said Friday.

In the worst case scenario, the government estimates the number of victims from such a quake and ensuing tsunami at more than 300,000. The Nankai Trough runs from Suruga Bay off Shizuoka Prefecture on the country's main island of Honshu to the Sea of Hyuga off Miyazaki Prefecture on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

Some researchers have warned a magnitude 9 earthquake focused on the 770-kilometer trough might hit Pacific coastal areas sometime within the next 30 years.

The program was adopted at the day's meeting of the government's Central Disaster Prevention Council headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Cabinet ministers, heads of the Bank of Japan, public broadcaster NHK and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., and researchers were among the members.

In the program, the government designated 707 municipalities in 29 of the country's 47 prefectures as regions where antidisaster measures should be strengthened to halve the number of buildings which might collapse or be burnt down.

Of the 707, 139 municipalities that might suffer serious damage from tsunami were designated as areas for which the government will increase its subsidies for local governments to establish evacuation centers.

Abe, speaking at the council, said his government will do its best to protect people's lives and properties.

The program assumes that such a quake and ensuing tsunami will result in the loss of 332,000 lives and the collapse or destruction by fire of 2.5 million buildings.

The basic plan calls for speeding up the designation of buildings to be used as sites for evacuation from tsunami and construction of coastal barriers against tsunami.

Among powerful quakes experienced in the central and western parts of the quake-prone country, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck the port city of Kobe and its vicinity on Jan. 17, 1995 killed more than 8,000 people.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake devastated areas in northeastern Japan, mainly Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, killing about 18,000 people.