Applications to deregister cars lost in tsunami soar

Kyodo

Vehicle registration offices in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures have been inundated with people wanting to deregister vehicles lost or damaged in the March 11 tsunami, with applications for more than 15,000 vehicles filed by the end of May.

Facing near-capacity in processing the applications, the Tohoku District Transport Bureau, the transport ministry’s outpost in northeastern Japan, has been forced to open temporary offices in some disaster-hit areas to cope with the surge, bureau officials said.

In the three prefectures, at least 230,000 automobiles are estimated to have been damaged in the tsunami, and many of them will likely be designated as “lost” in the deregistration process.

An official at the Miyagi branch of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry’s regional transport bureau said processing all the applications will take a long time.

According to the bureau, the number of applications to deregister vehicles permanently shot up after a measure cleared the Diet on April 27, stipulating disaster-relief steps, including refunds for automobile taxes already paid.

In the three prefectures, registrations for 256 vehicles were permanently removed between March 11 and 31. That number grew to 4,107 in April and 11,109 in May. The actual number of automobiles being deregistered is believed to be higher, as the figures do not include minicars.