Japan: Toilets and drinking water considered for lifts

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Japan is looking into installing toilets and emergency drinking water in buildings’ lifts in case people are trapped after earthquakes.

Officials from the country’s infrastructure ministry met industry representatives to discuss the proposals in the aftermath of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude undersea quake, which was felt across the country, the Kyodo news agency reports. One idea is that lifts could be fitted with portable toilets featuring a waterproof bag or other absorbent material inside a collapsible cardboard structure.

In the capital, Tokyo, almost 20,000 lifts stopped after Saturday’s quake, with 14 of them trapped between floors. In one case, people were stuck inside for more than an hour before being rescued. After the country’s devastating 2011 earthquake, some people were trapped in lifts for more than nine hours. About 60% of Japanese lifts are designed to detect tremors and stop at the closest floor before automatically opening their doors.

Japan is regularly shaken by earthquakes, but seismologists say it’s likely the capital will be hit by a major quake – referred to as the “big one” – within the coming decades. The government estimates that as many as 17,000 people could be trapped inside lifts in the capital’s high-rises if that happens.

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