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March 16, 2011

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Japan quake toilets, survival kits win fans

AS Japan struggles with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, neighbors in China are following closely and thinking of their own quake emergency preparation.

"I think it's time to learn the lesson from this and get prepared," says one Internet user who bought a Japanese-type survival kit on, China's biggest online store. The kit is one of the hottest clicks as Chinese are stocking up.

Japan's meticulous planning, preparations and survival kits are getting a lot of attention.

China is no stranger to earthquakes. In May 2008 much of Sichuan was devastated by a temblor that left 87,000 people dead or missing; last year Qinghai Province was struck (around 2,000 dead or missing) and Yunnan Province was shaken this month, when 25 people were killed.

A favorite emergency kit contains a flashlight, a warm hat, a battery-operated radio, utility knife, a solar blanket, wet napkins and many other items. They cost from 50-380 yuan (US$7.60-$57.80) and buyers build their own kit and choose high-energy biscuits.

"Japan seems like a huge transformer and everything is designed with ordinary mode and disaster mode. Now it has shifted to the disaster mode," says an Internet user, referring to dual-use facilities, such as sewers and manhole covers that can be converted to emergency toilets.

As an earthquake-prone country, Japan has been promoting earthquake education and holding drills for children and adults for decades.

Almost every household stores several disaster kits that enable people to be self-sufficient for at least three days.

The basic emergency kit usually includes heavy work gloves, a disposable camera, a water-proof bag, a 5-meter-long rescue rope that can lift at least 200 kilograms, a respirator, a compass, a first-aid kit, a three-liter foldable water bottle, four paraffin candles, 20 water- and wind-resistant matches; a sturdy fluorescent whistle that people can blow to attract attention.

Each bag is marked with names, addresses, blood types and telephone numbers. Important documents, such as deeds, can be protected in plastic.

Some Japanese housewives also store water and food rations, changing the food with expiry dates.

The design of manholes is also an eye-opener. In a disaster, they can be converted to makeshift toilets connected with the sewage system. They are usually clustered in parks, in groups of 40 to 50, and shielded by tents.

Each neighborhood has an earthquake shelter, usually above ground and partly open to the air. It's stocked with food and water and some have facilities for injured people.

Schools hold emergency drills every semester. Schoolbags are light but firm and can be used to cover the head and shield a person from debris. Cushions in classrooms contain head-to-toe protective cloaks.


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