Minamisanriku must pay rent on temporary facility

Kyodo

The town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, hit hard by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, has been stunned to learn it has to pay rent on prefabricated buildings that were used by an Israeli emergency medical team and now serve as a clinic, officials said Tuesday.

The tsunami-ravaged town, already struggling to ensure it can pay for reconstruction work, has earmarked ¥21 million in its supplementary budget for this fiscal year to cover rental payments to the company that built the temporary structures, they said.

The burden on the town could be mostly offset by the central government if the disaster relief law is applied, but “we never imagined that we would be charged,” a town official said in a bewildered tone.

The six prefabricated buildings were assembled near an evacuation center.

They still house medical devices such as X-ray equipment left by the Israeli medical team and are now serving as a temporary clinic managed by staff from a public hospital, the officials said.

Around 50 doctors and nurses sent from Israel worked at the buildings between March 29 and April 10.

According to the Minamisanriku Municipal Government, Isamu Sato, mayor of Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, who maintains close ties with Israel, coordinated activities for the medical team, and the city placed an order with a construction company to put up the temporary buildings in Minamisanriku.

Sato, along with the Israeli ambassador to Japan and Jin Sato, mayor of Minamisanriku, agreed in early April that the town would continue to use the buildings, but its officials said they were unaware that they would have to pay about ¥2.1 million to rent the buildings for three years.

“I did not receive any explanation about the rental cost from the city of Kurihara. I was stunned when an estimate arrived,” Sato said.