Prioritize securing permanent housing 2 years after Kumamoto Earthquake

The Yomiuri ShimbunSecuring permanent housing is the foundation for disaster-affected people to rebuild their lives. The central and local governments must work hard while giving top priority to housing construction.

Two years have passed since the Kumamoto Earthquake occurred. Earthquakes registering the highest level of 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale struck the region twice for the first time on record, killing 50 people. Nearly 200,000 houses and buildings were damaged or destroyed by the series of quakes. This was a fresh reminder of the importance of antiseismic reinforcement.

The demolition, using public funds, of houses and other buildings hit by the disaster has almost finished in a program under which applications were filed for 35,676 units. In the town of Mashiki, where serious damage was reported, projects to expand roads and redemarcate land are currently under way. Building towns resistant to disasters could lead to residents’ peace of mind.

It is concerning that a declining population in the disaster-hit areas has become evident. As inconvenient living conditions continue in places such as temporary housing, many residents presumably aim to rebuild their lives in other locations.

As of the end of March, there were still about 38,000 people living in temporary housing and private housing rented out by the central and local governments. This figure represents a decline of only about 20 percent from the peak in May last year.

The Kumamoto prefectural government has set a goal of having all people in temporary housing move to new homes by April 2020. To that end, it is hoped that efforts to build public housing for disaster-affected people will be accelerated. Although 1,735 units of such housing are planned to be built, construction and design have been launched for only about 60 percent of them.

Finding workers vital

There has been a shortage of land suitable to construct such housing. It is notable that companies cannot secure construction workers, and that some projects have failed to attract sufficient bidders. A nationwide labor shortage has hampered reconstruction efforts.

To stem the exodus of residents, it is essential to decrease to zero the number of people who are living in temporary housing units as early as possible. The prefectural government is urged to implement every possible measure to secure as many workers as possible in cooperation with the central government and the construction industry.

The prefectural government has implemented measures such as providing financial aid to people living in temporary housing and other places to move to rented accommodations. It should make sure to further inform the public about the system.

More than 200 people have died from earthquake-related causes, including the deterioration of their chronic illnesses during their evacuation. Up to ¥5 million is offered to the bereaved families of people whose deaths are recognized by municipal governments as being related to the earthquake.

However, there are no unified criteria for determining such deaths, so municipalities have strongly called on the central government to set criteria.

With conditions varying according to each disaster, creating uniform criteria would be no easy task. It appears to be crucial to first compile examples of screenings to serve as a reference for future disasters.

The Kyushu region has been hit by a succession of major disasters, such as heavy rain in the northern part of the region in July last year, which left 40 people dead. A search for missing persons has continued at the site of a landslide that occurred in Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture, on Wednesday. Their immediate rescue is hoped for.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 14, 2018)Speech


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