Evacuation Shelters to Be Built in 5 Municipalities of Sakishima Islands; Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki Expresses Caution

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People practice evacuating in a February drill in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.

Shelters capable of accommodating residents for about two weeks on the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture were part of basic policy and technical guidelines recently released by the government for developing emergency evacuation shelters.

Wary of a possible future emergency involving Taiwan, the government plans to strengthen the current evacuation system, and “specified temporary evacuation shelters” would be set up in five municipalities of the Sakishima Islands. However, a clear gap has emerged between the central and local governments, with Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki calling for building peace through dialogue.

The basic policy and guidelines target five municipalities in Okinawa Prefecture: Ishigaki, Miyakojima, Taketomi, Yonaguni and Tarama. The central government expects that each municipality given financial support to build shelters will do so in the basements of public and official facilities, and that they will be used by officials overseeing evacuation efforts and residents who cannot evacuate in time.

In peacetime, the shelters will be used as meeting rooms, parking lots and other facilities.

The policy and guidelines are precautionary measures for potential attacks involving bombs and conventional warheads, such as ballistic missile attacks. The shelters are required, among other things, to be built as deep underground as possible, to have doors capable of withstanding missile blasts, and to store three liters of drinking water per day for each person.

The government also designates concrete buildings and underground stations as “emergency temporary evacuation facilities” in preparation for armed attacks. The basic policy further includes a measure to promote the designation of underground facilities as evacuation shelters in urban areas, including political and economic centers.

Subhead: Tamaki cautious

Tamaki expressed caution regarding the government’s announcement. “We need to examine the details closely,” he said to reporters at the prefectural government building on Friday. “Japan should adopt a diplomatic policy of building peace through dialogue, but constructing these kinds of shelters isn’t enough,” Tamaki stressed.

In contrast, municipal governments in the Sakishima Islands welcomed the development. Given the possibility of China’s invasion of Taiwan and other emergency situations, they have been calling on the central government to build more evacuation shelters.

“Shelters are essential to protect the lives of citizens,” Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama said to The Yomiuri Shimbun, expressing appreciation for the policy.