SENDAI – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had little to say on the tsunami-triggered core meltdowns in Fukushima as representatives from across the globe met at a U.N. conference on disaster risk reduction Sunday to underscore the urgent need to address climate change and reduce disaster impacts.
On the second day of the U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, French Minister of State for Development and Francophony Annick Girardin said climate change is responsible for over 80 percent of the damage caused by natural disasters.
The Sendai conference is “above all a call for lucidity, because it is no longer possible to ignore climate chaos” in the context of disaster risk mitigation, Girardin told the gathering, which began Saturday.
Meanwhile, in a speech Saturday at the conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had few words on the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The disaster in Fukushima Prefecture erupted after a massive quake on March 11, 2011, spawned huge tsunami that took out the plant’s cooling systems.
Abe’s speech was strongly criticized by Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town of Namie.
“(Abe’s speech) was no good at all. He may not have wanted to give negative impressions (of Japan) because world leaders have gathered here,” Baba told reporters Saturday.
Namie is close to the plant, and about 21,000 of its residents were still living outside the town as of the end of February after losing their homes to radioactive fallout.
Speculation has been rife that Abe was attempting to avoid discussion about the Fukushima disaster because the No. 1 plant is plagued with radioactive water woes, including operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s failure to disclose the extent of the tainted water flowing into the Pacific.
Tests on samples of seawater and fish from sites close to the plant have shown no alarming signs for human health, apparently as the contaminated water is being diluted by the sea. This has prompted Abe to claim that, despite the continuing water woes and the harm that they are causing to local fishermen, the situation is “under control.”
During a session Sunday, Cabinet members from about 40 nations discussed post-disaster efforts to build more disaster-resistant communities.
“Japan has assumed the largest (possible) quake may hit the country, and has been preparing evacuation routes and strengthened (disaster) monitoring systems,” land minister Akihiro Ota said.
Japan also has taken steps to make houses and schools earthquake-proof since the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck the Kobe area in 1995, Ota said.
He said the nation will provide as much support as possible to Vanuatu, which was devastated by a massive cyclone over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Abe underlined the importance of female leadership in anti-disaster efforts.
“Women’s leadership is indeed essential in order to stand up to disasters,” Abe said in a dialogue session at the conference.
Because women’s perspectives have not been fully utilized in disaster prevention, Abe said, there is a need to consider measures that are friendly to women, who are more likely to face tougher situations than men when natural disasters hit.
In the Dialogue on Mobilizing Women’s Leadership in Disaster Risk Reduction, cochaired by internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, former Finnish President Tarja Halonen called for improving a disaster warning system to allow women in rural areas to obtain evacuation information promptly.