TOKYO: The coronavirus might top the risks at the Tokyo Olympics, but organisers in Japan have other deadly, unpredictable threats to contend with: Natural disasters.
Japan is regularly rattled by earthquakes and battered by typhoons, and experts warn that disaster preparation for a major event like the Games should not take a back seat because of the virus.
"For organisers, infection measures are an urgent challenge," Hirotada Hirose, a specialist in disaster risk studies, told AFP.
"But the risks of a major earthquake mustn't be forgotten when you have an Olympics hosted by Japan," added Hirose, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman's Christian University.
Japan sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches throughout southeast Asia and across the Pacific Basin.
The country is also home to numerous active volcanos and is regularly hit by typhoons in the season that runs from around May to October, peaking in August and September.
When Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2019, three pool matches were cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis, which killed more than 100 people and caused widespread flooding.
Tokyo and surrounding areas sit precariously at the junction of shifting tectonic plates, and experts and officials regularly warn residents that the next "Big One" could strike at any time.
Before last year's postponement, large-scale exercises were organised to rehearse the response to a massive quake ripping through Tokyo Bay.
"There has been an earthquake. Please stay calm and protect yourself," blared a message in Japanese and English at one venue.
"Taking action in a panic may lead to danger."
Tokyo 2020 says it has contingency plans for various natural disasters, "prioritising the safety of spectators and people involved", though they declined to offer further details.
The risks are real, said Toshiyasu Nagao, an expert on earthquake prediction studies with Tokai University's Institute of Oceanic Research and Development.
"It would be no surprise if a big earthquake hit directly beneath the capital tomorrow," he told AFP.
"And it's not just in Tokyo, the risks of an earthquake are everywhere in Japan."
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