Shortly after North Korea launched another missile towards Japan, residents were awakened to blaring sirens, emergency text messages and instructions broadcast over loudspeakers, sending some running for shelter.
North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island into the sea on Tuesday morning, which prompted the Japanese government to trigger its “J-Alert” warning system.
At 5:58 a.m., North Korea had launched its first missile to fly over Japan since 2009. At 6:02 a.m., the “J-Alert” was activated.
“Missile launch. Missile launch. North Korea appears to have fired a missile. Take refuge in a solid building or underground,” reads the mobile phone alert, according to Reuters.
The satellite instant warning system is generally used by Japan’s meteorological agency to warn of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat uses the system to warn of “ballistic missile attack, aerial intrusion and a landing invasion.”
WATCH: Sirens sound in Japan following N. Korea missile launch
According to South Korean officials, North Korea’s latest missile test travelled about 2,700 kilometres and reached a maximum height of about 550 kilometres as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Speaking with Reuters, residents described confusion moments after sirens began to sound in their communities.
“We felt helpless knowing there was nothing we could do even while a missile was passing through the skies of Japan,” Hiroaki Kumasaka told the news agency.
Another resident told Japan’s Kyodo news agency, he just simply didn’t know exactly what to do after hearing the alert.
“The alert told me to evacuate, but I couldn’t think of any building in the town that could withstand missiles. I didn’t know where to go,” Ichiro Kondo told the news agency.
In April, government officials in Tokyo admitted that if a missile launch is detected from North Korea, citizens in the targeted area would only get about a 10-minute warning to flee the impact zone, according to English language newspaper The Japan Times.
Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection Portal Site, an emergency preparedness website, also warned missile strikes are hard to predict.
“It is extremely difficult to be able to pinpoint missile landing areas before their launch. The missile is expected to land in a short period of time. Therefore, a warning will be issued to the effect that a launch of a ballistic missile is imminent and the content of the warning will be communicated via TV and radio etc.,” reads a message on the website.
“Evacuate indoors during the initial phase of the attack and then evacuate appropriately following instructions given by administrative agencies,” reads the emergency response pamphlet. “In case of evacuating indoors, evacuate to a robust building or underground shopping arcade nearby.”
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Earlier this month, North Korea said it was finalizing a plan to launch four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny island of Guam, which hosts 7,000 U.S. military personnel on two main bases and has a population of 160,000.
The threat prompted Guam Homeland Security and Office of Civil Defense to release pamphlets on Facebook informing its citizens on ways to prepare for an “imminent missile threat.”
The two-page information pamphlet includes warnings and advice to the likes of:
-Make a list of potential concrete shelters near your home, workplace and school.
-Do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you
-Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
-If you were outside during or after the blast, get clean as soon as possible to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body.
-Remove your clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading. Removing the outer layer of clothing can remove up to 90 per cent of radioactive material.
-When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.
-Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair.
The pamphlet goes on to explain about dealing with potential nuclear fallout and how to protect oneself from radiation.
“Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave a fallout shelter,” the pamphlet reads. “Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1 per cent of initial radiation level.”
-with a file from Reuters.