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Japan vending machines to automatically offer free food if earthquake hits

Wille Okon 14 Jun 2

Japan has extended its natural disaster preparations to vending machines, which will offer free food and drink in the event of a major earthquake or typhoon.

Two machines have been installed in the western coastal city of Ako, located in a region that seismologists say is vulnerable to a powerful earthquake that is expected to hit the country’s central and south-west pacific coast in the next few decades.

The machines, which contain about 300 bottles and cans of soft drinks and 150 emergency food items, including nutritional supplements, have been installed near buildings that have been designated as evacuation shelters.

They are designed to “unlock” and make their contents available free of charge in the event of a heavy rain warning, or an evacuation order after a quake of an upper five or higher on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of seven, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

Their contents must be paid for the rest of the time, the newspaper added.

The manufacturer, Earth Corp, which has a factory in the city, says the machines are the first of their kind in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active countries, and where increasingly powerful typhoons have caused widespread flooding and landslides in recent years.

“We would like to install [the machines] throughout the country,” a company representative told the Mainichi.

A city official said: “We expect that the stockpile will lead to the safety and security of our residents.”

In another first, a vending machine with a radio that will automatically issue emergency broadcasts was set up in a park in Tokyo earlier this year.

The radio will be activated by earthquakes registering 5 or higher on the Japanese intensity scale, and transmit evacuation and other vital information from a local community radio station, media reports said.

Experts recently raised the possibility of a “megaquake” occurring along the Nankai trough, off Japan’s Pacific coast, within the next 20 years from 50% to 60%, and at about 90% within the next 40 years.