Tokyo simulates first military attack since WWII amid N Korea threat
Tokyo: Hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover on Monday in the Japanese capital's first evacuation drill for a military attack since World War II, amid ongoing tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme.
A loudspeaker blared out a terrifying warning at the drill, held in a Tokyo amusement park: "We have information that a missile launch has occurred. Please evacuate calmly inside a building or underground."
A park employee ran around, shouting "a missile was launched, a missile was launched" as some 250 local residents and office workers duly evacuated to reinforced concrete buildings and a nearby subway station.
A few minutes later, a second message was announced via loudspeaker: "The missile passed. The missile likely flew over the Kanto (greater Tokyo) region towards the Pacific Ocean."
People in earthquake-prone Japan are familiar with evacuation drills simulating natural disasters and fires and annual drills are seasonal rituals seen almost everywhere in the country –from schools and workplaces to care homes.
But a drill simulating a North Korean missile attack on Tokyo is still a novel idea, although similar drills were held in other parts of Japan last year.
"I think it's better than nothing to have such a drill, but I am praying there is no missile attack from the North," Shota Matsushima, 20, a university student who was in a train station near the drill site, told AFP.
Kana Okakuni, 19, also a student, added: "I think it's good to take a precaution, like having drills for earthquakes."
The drill comes as regional tensions remain high over North Korea's nuclear and missile drive, despite the hermit state's plan to send athletes to next months' Winter Games in the South, which has drawn global attention.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to "sink" the country into the sea and to turn it into "ashes".
Last year, Pyongyang had fired three missiles over Japan and has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.