Photo/Illutration The image shows how flood damage estimates will be shown on Google Street View. (Provided by the Tottori prefectural government)

TOTTORI--The Tottori prefectural government plans to provide more realistic images of estimated flooding using Google Street View to help residents better plan their escape routes in disasters.

The system, expected to start by the end of fiscal 2020, will show, for example, how roads will be inundated in a devastating flood that “could strike once in 1,000 years,” prefectural government officials said.

The Street View feature on Google Maps enables users to see landscapes and scenery on the maps. Under the prefecture’s system using special software, residents can experience flooding in a more realistic fashion and become more aware of the need to plan anti-disaster measures, the officials said.

Essentially, they will be able to pick evacuation routes in a more simplified way than using the current hazard maps.

“Providing only numerical data is insufficient to make people figure out the dangers,” an official of the prefecture’s crisis management policy division said. “We want citizens to visually check how deep their areas could be inundated in maximum flooding and to make preparations to evacuate.”

The hazard maps worked out by municipalities have been criticized because they show only rough estimates of water levels, such as 50 centimeters to 3 meters high, during flooding.

After a series of disasters, including torrential rain that flooded western Japan in July 2018 and Typhoon No. 19, which wreaked havoc in October 2019, the Tottori prefectural government set up a committee to devise efficient evacuation tactics.

The idea for the software was proposed at the committee. In addition, a plan is being considered to equip evacuation centers with dedicated toilet facilities and personal tents for patients with special needs.

The prefecture’s draft budget for next fiscal year includes 108 million yen ($990,000) for disaster management measures, the official said.

After the budget is approved, the prefecture plans to commission a private company to develop the software.