32 billion yen in quake donations sits in banks

KOBE — Officials of a committee to distribute public donations to survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake have admitted that more than 32 billion yen has not been used and is sitting in banks.

At a public inquiry here on Feb. 22, Akinori Fujii, head of the South Hyogo Earthquake Damage Funds Committee, disclosed that as of the end of January, approximately 177.5 billion yen in donations had been collected by the committee through the Hyogo Prefectural Government, local governments of cities hit by the 1995 quake, the Japan Red Cross and the central government.

However, only slightly more than 145 billion yen has been distributed, he said, and there are no immediate plans to utilize the balance. More than 90 percent of the remaining amount is sitting in Sakura Bank’s Kobe branch, said Takashi Suita of the local Red Cross chapter. The rest is deposited in a number of city banks. “We wanted to pay out the money in different stages,” Suita told the nearly 40 people attending the inquiry. “We had planned to distribute the money to those who need funds to rebuild their houses.”

But the committee’s actions have angered local quake survivors, who are demanding the funds be distributed now. “This money was collected for the earthquake victims’ immediate needs,” said Yasunori Sasaki of Soshite (And Now) Kobe, a group formed to keep track of the money collected by the committee. “But, without consulting the victims, the Red Cross and the committee simply decided to earmark them for future disaster facilities. “Yet we need the money to rebuild our lives now, not in the future.”