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Japan in first national quake drill since tsunami
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 1, 2011

Japan on Thursday conducted its first national earthquake drill since the March 11 disasters that left 20,000 dead or missing and triggered a nuclear crisis.

Police supervised traffic at some 100 points in central Tokyo while passengers were guided to safe zones from train stations in a simulation of a post-quake scenario in which all rail and subway services are suspended.

Announcements warning passengers that tests were taking place throughout the day were made in stations, while 1,500 people took part in a drill in the morning on the roof of a Tokyo department store.

Disaster Prevention Day is an annual exercise to train for a potentially deadly magnitude-7.3 quake scenario in Tokyo and is held to commemorate the anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which killed more than 105,000.

"The country and local governments should reconsider the conventional disaster prevention measures and prepare for every possible scenario of earthquakes and tsunami," the government's cabinet office said.

"Especially in terms of tsunami measures, they need to raise people's disaster prevention awareness and take all possible, comprehensive measures, including evacuation of residents."

Chubu Electric Power, which runs the Hamaoka nuclear plant on the Pacific coast in Shizuoka, central Japan, tested communications in a simulation of a plant power loss in the event of a tsunami.

The surging waves triggered by the March quake crippled backup cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which led to reactor meltdowns, explosions and the release of radiation into the environment.

Tens of thousands remain evacuated from homes, farms and businesses in a 20 kilometre (12 mile) radius around the stricken plant.

Throughout Japan, about 517,000 people were scheduled to take part in the drills.

But many areas hit by the March disaster, including Fukushima, cancelled their participation with residents still struggling to recover from the March calamity, officials said.

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Japan's new PM picks ally as top spokesman
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 1, 2011 - Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday picked one of his closest allies as the top spokesman for his cabinet expected to be formed the next day.

Osamu Fujimura, 61, who heads Noda's group within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters he had accepted the premier's request to become Chief Cabinet Secretary.

He is now acting secretary general of the party which needs to rebuild unity after a bruising leadership battle between supporters and enemies of veteran powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, who has been indicted in a political funds scandal.

A fair and balanced allocation of ministerial posts among factions is seen crucial to reunite the party.

Noda was elected as Japan's sixth prime minister in five years on Tuesday, inheriting the daunting tasks of recovery from the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster, a nuclear crisis, a soaring yen and a ballooning public debt.

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Warning call of the wild: US zoo animals sensed quake
Washington (AFP) Aug 25, 2011
Many animals at the National Zoo in Washington sensed the rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the US east coast before it struck and began to behave strangely, zoo officials said. The epicenter of the surprise quake was located in a small Virginia town 134 kilometers (84 miles) southwest of the US capital. Despite the distance, the zoo's red-ruffed lemurs "sounded an alarm call abou ... read more

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