Nearly 70 percent of 108 Japanese coastal municipalities at risk of damage from a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake have never conducted drills for operating evacuation centers in the winter, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

The survey, which examined 108 municipalities spanning seven prefectures from Chiba to Hokkaido, assessed preparedness in the event of a tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Japan and Chishima trenches in the Pacific Ocean. It revealed delays in implementing measures to address the severe coldness of shelters in the winter.

Many disaster-related deaths in the wake of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the magnitude-9.0 northeastern Japan earthquake in March 2011 were believed to have been due to cold weather, bringing attention to the dire conditions at shelters during winter disasters.

The government estimates that an earthquake originating in the Japan Trench and subsequent tsunami could result in as many as 42,000 deaths from hypothermia.

The Japan Trench stretches from Hokkaido to east of the Boso Peninsula near Tokyo, and the Chishima Trench lies off the Chishima Islands, also known as the Kuril Islands.

The survey was conducted from November to December last year before a magnitude-7.6 quake in the Noto Peninsula, central Japan, on New Year's Day, with responses obtained from all 108 targeted municipalities.

People walk on the site of a gutted market in Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan, on Feb. 15, 2024, after a blaze following a strong earthquake on Jan. 1 burned out the area. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Winter in the survey was defined as the period between November and March as some municipalities conduct evacuation drills on Nov. 5, designated as tsunami disaster prevention day, and around March 11, when the Great East Japan earthquake occurred.

Among the 74 municipalities that responded that they had not previously conducted training for operating evacuation shelters in winter, 44 said they plan to do so in the future, while the remainder said they do not.

While reasons cited for not conducting training included the presence of many elderly residents and concerns that people could fall ill, many municipalities also recognized the need for preparedness and have made efforts to stockpile blankets and kerosene stoves.

The survey revealed that 62 municipalities, or 57 percent, have installed heating appliances in all shelters under their jurisdiction while 31 municipalities, or 29 percent, have adequate winter bedding for the total capacity of their shelters.

"Training is needed to prepare for disasters during winter, including measures against infectious diseases," said Kohei Sasamoto, a doctor at Nabari City Hospital, Mie Prefecture, who was part of a medical team that visited shelters for the Noto Peninsula earthquake.

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