Disability Disasters Japan

Wide-area evacuation drills held in Tokyo for people with severe disabilities

An NPO that supports the independent living of people with disabilities in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward is looking for evacuation measures for people with severe disabilities in preparation for large-scale floods. The welfare evacuation shelters designated by the ward are limited to one companion, making it difficult for people with disabilities who need multiple hands to assist. However, even if you try to evacuate outside the ward with a helper or family before a typhoon hits, there are problems associated with traveling long distances.

From The Tokyo Shimbun

August 14 2022

TOKYO – An NPO that supports the independent living of people with disabilities in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward is looking for evacuation measures for people with severe disabilities in preparation for large-scale floods. The welfare evacuation shelters designated by the ward are limited to one companion, making it difficult for people with disabilities who need multiple hands to assist. However, even if you try to evacuate outside the ward with a helper or family before a typhoon hits, there are problems associated with traveling long distances. 

“Independent Living Center STEP Edogawa” (Minamishinozaki-cho) conducted a wide-area evacuation drill on the weekend of late June. A total of 55 people, including 15 people with disabilities who use the center and their families and staff, participated. Over a two-day, one-night schedule, we boarded two large buses with lifts and headed to a private facility in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture, which used to be an abandoned school. There were a lot of medical equipment and luggage, and due to the limited space on the bus, only four of the eight wheelchair users were able to get on the bus.

The accommodation is in the facility’s gymnasium. Transferring a severely disabled person, who can usually be moved from a wheelchair to an electric bed by a single helper, to a futon on the floor required multiple hands.

Hiromi Ichikawa of the same corporation recalls, “It’s difficult to move in a large group, so it’s better to evacuate to a nearby area.” A 55-year-old man who lives alone and has cerebral palsy said, “Because I was sitting all the time, the traffic jam was painful.” On the other hand, people with intellectual disabilities, who were expected to be confused by the change in environment, were able to calm down because they were surrounded by staff members they knew.

This spring, the ward designated welfare evacuation shelters for 2,400 people requiring support, but 70% of the ward is in a zone of zero meters above sea level, and if flooded, the water will not recede for a week or two. Ichikawa says, “If you want to evacuate for a long time, it’s better to evacuate to a wider area in advance. It would be nice if multiple family members, a helper and her family, could evacuate together so that they could take turns providing assistance.” Currently, people who need support must find a wide-area evacuation site by themselves, and the cost of transportation and accommodation is also expensive. Mr. Ichikawa said, “There is a need for administrative support for movement and expansion of options for evacuation destinations.”

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