Abe visits disaster-hit Iwate Prefecture

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday visited Iwate, one of the three prefectures hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and vowed to accelerate efforts to rebuild its shattered communities.

In the coastal city of Rikuzentakata, which was devastated by the tsunami that followed the 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March 2011, Abe visited a memorial for victims of the catastrophe and later inspected land preparation work in a project to transfer badly affected towns and cities on the coast to upland areas.

Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba told Abe that it took 13 months for the city to start the land work after the contract was struck. “I want the government to help our communities achieve reconstruction as early as possible,” he said.

Abe replied that his government plans to identify the specific needs of each of the ruined areas in the Tohoku region and tackle the issues one by one.

It was Abe’s first trip to Iwate since he took office in December. He visited the two other prefectures that suffered the worst damage, Fukushima and Miyagi, soon after his Dec. 26 inauguration and in January. Fukushima also bore the full brunt of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power station.

In Rikuzentakata, Abe held talks with residents living in temporary housing, assuring them that “the government is making all-out efforts to achieve early reconstruction and to help affected people return to their lives before the disaster.”

Addressing reporters, the prime minister noted, “I have realized (after visiting the three prefectures) that reconstruction needs differ region by region,” and said his government will redouble efforts to create new jobs in disaster areas.

Also Saturday, Abe visited the city of Kesennuma in Miyagi and inspected an ice factory that has been rebuilt since the March 11, 2011, quake-tsunami calamities.