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Is Japan equipped to handle a large earthquake?

People evacuating gather at a park after a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan at Sendai city in Fukushima prefecture.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: In the aftermath of the magnitude 8.9 quake in Japan, a lot of the Pacific Rim -- including Hawaii and much of the U.S. West coast -- are bracing for the possibility of catastrophic waves. First, I want to bring in the BBC's Duncan Bartlett, the former Tokyo bureau chief, who's with us from London. He's going to give us a little context on what the situation's like in Japan. He lived there for so many years. And the northern city of Sendai has reportedly been hit particularly hard. Good morning, Duncan.

Duncan Bartlett: Good morning.

Chiotakis: What communication with Japan have you had so far today?

Bartlett: Well, I've been talking to people in Tokyo via e-mail, and I can tell you that a lot of people are still trapped in their offices. They're unable to go home because there are no trains or commuter services running and the only thing that they're able to do is watch the television reports on their mobile phones. Now, of course, the situation in Tokyo is a lot better than in the northeast of Japan, where those television pictures are coming from.

Chiotakis: What kind of preparations can be done, or have been taking place in Japan, because they've been expecting a big earthquake, right, for a long time?

Bartlett: Almost the first thing children learn at school in Japan is how to respond to a major earthquake. And those drills have almost been more common in the wake of the earthquake in New Zealand a few weeks ago, but nobody expected, of course, something on this scale. Having said that, of course, the emergency services have prepared for a big earthquake in Japan for a long time and they are now carrying out the procedures which they've rehearsed for many, many times.

Chiotakis: Is Japan equipped to handle an earthquake this large?

Bartlett: This is the largest earthquake that Japan has ever experienced, so this will be a test as to whether it is equipped. But nothing could really prepare the city of Sendai for something on this scale. There was nothing anybody could do to prepare for that, Steve.

Chiotakis: The BBC's Duncan Bartlett joining us from London. Duncan, thank you.

Bartlett: Thank you, Steve.

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