Police Officers Napping in Patrol Cars, Surviving on Bananas and Cup Noodles While Struggling in Disaster Area During Reconstruction Assistance Efforts | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Police Officers Napping in Patrol Cars, Surviving on Bananas and Cup Noodles While Struggling in Disaster Area During Reconstruction Assistance Efforts

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In Anamizu Town, Hyogo Prefectural Police officers were in charge of traffic control. Although they have a separate base of operations, they take naps and other activities in a van or tent behind them while on duty.

A month has passed since the Noto Peninsula earthquake occurred.

Like the Self-Defense Forces and fire departments, police officers from all over Japan have been dispatched to the disaster areas since New Year’s Day, and are still working hard. The main duties of the police in the affected areas include “lifesaving,” “traffic control,” “crime prevention,” and “investigation of dead bodies.

The lifesaving activities are carried out by a unit called the Wide-Area Emergency Assistance Team, which has been established in each prefectural police department. This unit was established in response to the lessons learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, when the police had difficulty in rescuing people in need of help due to the lack of equipment and materials compared to the fire department. In addition, in 2011, the Police Disaster Relief Team was established based on the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake. In addition to the Wide-Area Emergency Assistance Team, units from various police departments, such as traffic, community, and criminal, are dispatched to disaster-stricken areas as soon as possible. The dispatched police officers work for three days to a maximum of one week, and then take over the duties of the police units they have replaced.

Rescue and search operations are being conducted daily in the disaster-stricken areas by the Regional Emergency Assistance Teams and other units. If a body is unfortunately found, it is taken to a temporary morgue for autopsy before being handed over to the bereaved family. The bodies, which have been in various states of disrepair, are analyzed and appraised to hasten identification.

A patrol car of the Ishikawa Prefectural Police was patrolling the streets amid collapsed houses and utility poles blocking the road.

Traffic restrictions are in place every day in the affected areas. Because the roads leading to Anamizu Town, Wajima City, and Suzu City are restricted to one-way traffic, and there are several intersections where traffic signals are not functioning, the Highway Traffic Police and Traffic Riot Police, which normally conduct traffic control activities on highways and trunk roads, are in charge of traffic control in the area.

Some roads had to be diverted through the village, and some police officers were trying to make it as easy as possible for vehicles to pass through by spreading shovels of snow in the cracks of the roads. They took turns performing their duties, but when they needed to rest, they took naps in simple tents set up on the spot or in their patrol cars, and ate only cup noodles and bananas for meals. They also used simple toilets for toilet facilities. In addition, the Mobile Police Communications Unit of the Information and Communications Department, which is responsible for restoring communication systems such as police radios and transmitting images, is also in the affected areas to support police operations.

Sadly, there have also been incidents of theft and fraud in the affected areas. There have been many crimes such as burglars who enter the affected houses wearing clothes that blend in easily with their surroundings or pretending to be the family members of the victims and take money and goods, or who put blue sheets on the roofs of the affected houses without permission and unilaterally repair the houses, taking several hundred thousand yen as construction costs.

According to the National Police Agency, the agency has reported 32 cases of burglary and littering as of January 25. The police, having learned lessons from the many disasters, have been strengthening their various police activities, patrolling day and night to keep an eye out for suspicious persons. At the same time, plainclothes police officers are patrolling in masked patrol cars, and police activities, including support units, are expected to continue for the time being to deter crime and ensure the safety and security of disaster victims.

Metropolitan Police Department motorcade is also patrolling in Anamizu Town and other areas.
Members of the Wide-Area Emergency Assistance Team searching a village swept away by a landslide.
A safe was found and stored among burnt debris at a morning market in Wajima.
  • Photography, Interview, Writing Takuma Arimura

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