Drill Held on 30th Anniversary of Matsumoto Sarin Attack in Japan; Aum Shinrikyo Cult Attack in the City Killed 8, Injured 600

MATSUMOTO, Nagano — A drill that simulated the response to a terrorist attack involving the highly toxic nerve gas sarin was held in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Thursday, exactly 30 years after an incident in which the Aum Shinrikyo cult used the gas in the city.

Jun Nakamura, a member of an emergency response team that rushed to the scene of the 1994 attack, was among the drill’s participants. Nakamura is now chief of the city’s Yoshikawa Fire Station, which played a central role in the drill and is home to the Matsumoto Regional Fire Bureau’s special disaster response team.

The drill was premised on a scenario in which some kind of liquid had been splashed on the ground at an indoor event and several people had collapsed.

“We mustn’t let ‘the unexpected’ simply remain unexpected,” said Nakamura, 57.

A total of 93 personnel, including Nakamura, from the bureau were deployed to deal with the sarin incident from the evening of June 27, 1994, until after 5 a.m. the following morning. Eight people died and about 600 were injured in the incident.

Nakamura also suffered symptoms of miosis, in which the pupils constrict and his vision became darker, for about one week after the incident. Twelve firefighting personnel were confirmed to have been impacted by the sarin. The cause of the mass adverse health effects could not be identified immediately, so the early responders were not properly equipped for such a situation.

About 60 personnel from 10 fire stations took part in Thursday’s exercise. Personnel wearing protective clothing rescued injured people, sealed the liquid in plastic and confirmed other steps of the response to such a scenario.

“An incident with no parallel in the world occurred in a quiet residential area of this region,” Nakamura said. “We have units ready to deal with such an event, but we aren’t complacent. We’ll do everything that can be considered.”