Neighboring prefectures send disaster specialists to quake-hit Kumamoto


Other areas in Japan with extensive experience in dealing with natural disasters have dispatched personnel to Kumamoto to help the prefecture cope with the deadly earthquakes that struck Kyushu.

Officials with expertise are helping to manage shelters for displaced residents and to dispose of the extensive rubble, among other work, in the disaster-hit areas.

The experts are from governments including Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, which were hit hardest by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

From Fukushima, the first team to offer assistance was a group of five experts sent to the town of Kashima on Wednesday.

Three of them, including a senior official who once managed a shelter for evacuees, are involved in compiling evacuee lists and securing transportation routes for distributing relief supplies.

The other two are engineering workers qualified to evaluate the danger of damaged buildings collapsing. They are tasked with surveying damage to homes and other properties in the areas.

“For situations in disarray, we don’t need personnel who can’t work on their own initiative unless instructed from above,” a senior official of the Fukushima Prefectural Government said.

The Iwate Prefectural Government has dispatched employees to the Kumamoto Prefectural Government to help with the disposal of disaster waste. From Miyagi, crisis management workers have joined the local task force in Kumamoto to support the distribution of relief supplies.

The government of Hyogo Prefecture, which suffered severe damage from the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995, sent a group of seven experts last Wednesday to join 14 colleagues who had already entered the town of Mashiki, one of the most seriously damaged municipalities.

They were dispatched under the support initiative of the Union of Kansai Governments, which consists of 12 prefectural and city governments in the Kansai region.

“I want you to use your experience and help put it (Kumamoto) on a track of recovery and reconstruction as soon as possible,” Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido said in a sending-off ceremony for the mission.

The government of Niigata Prefecture, which was damaged by a strong quake in the Chuetsu region in 2004, has assigned workers including the chief of the disaster response planning section, to support activities in disaster areas.

Many of the workers were dispatched at the request of the Kyushu Governors’ Association, after being relayed through the National Governors’ Association. The arrangement is designed to ensure the right workers are assigned the right jobs.

The national association anticipates a surge in applications for disaster damage certificates for destroyed and heavily damaged homes to receive financial assistance. It is ready to arrange the dispatch of knowledgeable officials from prefectural governments if there are any requests from disaster-area municipalities.

“We’ll be unstinting in our support in order to help people afflicted by the quakes to reconstruct their lives as soon as possible,” an official of the association’s secretariat said.

Forty eight people died after a series of earth quakes rocked the area starting April 14. Rescuers are also continuing to search for two missing people in the village of Minamiaso.