The processing of evacuees from the volcanic island of Miyake is going smoothly and the first of three groups of islanders is scheduled to move into public housing today, officials of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Tuesday.
The 106 evacuees have been living at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, the clearing house for islanders, in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward since arriving in Tokyo on Sunday.
The third group of evacuees arrived at the center Tuesday morning after spending the night aboard a ferry anchored at Takeshiba Pier in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. The 204 people are scheduled to enter public housing on Friday.
They were part of a larger contingent of 432 that arrived as the last group late Monday, but several people have been able to move into relatives’ houses or find other accommodation, the officials said.
The remaining evacuees are filling out applications for public housing and will stay at the center for at least two more nights.
On Thursday, the second group of 280 residents is scheduled to enter public apartments, they said.
The metropolitan government has so far secured 877 apartment units for the evacuees, while 666 more units in neighboring prefectures have been offered by local governments.
Before the evacuation order was issued Friday, a total of 138 households who had voluntarily left Miyake have already moved into public housing or received the keys to their apartments.
The metropolitan government is providing the evacuees with medical and daily goods, in addition to other items such as blankets, underwear, TV sets and refrigerators.
It will also cover the 3 percent interest on the emergency 100 yen,000-loans granted to each evacuee by the Health and Welfare Ministry, as well as the water bills accrued while they stay in the public units.
In addition, Tokyo Electric Power Co. has decided to foot their electricity bills.
In an effort to help the evacuees find jobs on the mainland, the government set up an employment counseling counter Tuesday at the evacuation headquarters.
On Miyake Island, mudslides caused by heavy rain blocked roads Tuesday, stranding Miyake village officials and emergency personnel left behind on the island, village officials said.
The metropolitan government decided to reduce its local task force on the island Tuesday, evacuating 132 by ferry in the afternoon.
As of Tuesday evening, about 300 people remained on the island to oversee essential services and continue monitoring the activity of Mount Oyama.
Three mudslides triggered by rain that began Monday night and continued into Tuesday morning have obstructed roads between metropolitan government offices in the northern part of the island and Miyake village’s government headquarters on the eastern coast, preventing officials from traveling between the two, they said.
Power on the island was cut off at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday after the metropolitan government ordered personnel in charge of the island’s electric power supply to seek shelter at its branch offices on the island following warnings by the Meteorological Agency.
The agency issued a warning of heavy rain and possible mudslides Monday night and repeated it Tuesday, predicting that between 20 mm and 30 mm of rain on the island per hour.
Miyake Island reported 54 mm of rain between Monday night and 3 p.m. Tuesday, the agency said.
The government’s emergency headquarters on the island plans to continue scaling down the number of emergency workers on the island, it said.
Free loans for islands
The government will soon grant interest-free and low-interest loans to aid small-business owners on the islands of Miyake, Niijima and Kozu who have suffered due to the volcanic eruptions and seismic activity, Ministry of International Trade and Industry chief Takeo Hiranuma announced on Tuesday.
Since June 27, the government has provided small-business owners in the islands with restoration loans at a lower interest rate of 2.2 percent through the National Life Finance Corporation, Japan Finance Corporation for Small Business and the Central Co-operative Bank for Commerce and Industry, in accordance with the national disaster relief law.
With the situation being prolonged and worsening to such an extent that an evacuation order has been issued for Miyake Island, Hiranuma said the government will soon lower the 2.2-percent interest rate to 2 percent on disaster restoration loans provided to business owners.
For those whose business has been extensively damaged, the government, together with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and local municipalities, will provide interest-free subsidies of up to 10 million yen.
The measures are expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 12, a MITI official said.
The measures will then retroactively incorporate some of the 841 million yen in disaster restoration loans already extended as of Tuesday to 25 applicants out of a total of 1,042 business operators on the three islands, the official said.
“Borrowing money now means paying it back in the future, but many of the business owners just don’t know when they will be able to go back into business,” said the official.
The restoration scheme is designed for governmental financial institutions to extend the loans bearing interest of 2.2 percent over a period of 10 to 20 years, with a deferment period of up to three years.
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