Having spent three years away from their homes, many Miyake Island residents forced to evacuate due to volcanic eruptions in 2000 are suffering amid a lack of financial support from the government.
Residents of the island, which is part of the Izu chain south of Tokyo, have received financial aid only once under the Natural Disaster Victims Relief Law.
Although a bill to secure aid for residential damage will be submitted to the Diet next year, the resulting funds will not cover evacuees’ temporary shelter expenses, nor their resumption of daily life and work on the island.
According to a January survey of 50 evacuee households, it will cost an average household 5 million yen to repair its damaged home and to make necessary purchases such as a car.
An average business will require another 3 million yen, with funds needed to repair structures and buy new equipment, for example.
Yet the maximum amount of aid dished out under the relief law is 1 million yen, with use limited to purchases of items such as refrigerators. Even when combined with donations, each household will therefore only receive about 2 million yen in assistance.
The Cabinet Office plans to revise the relief law to provide residents with an additional 2 million yen to help them repair or rebuild their houses. Even if the revision is passed, however, the combined aid figure still falls far short of the 8 million yen cited in the survey.
“With loan payments and a sharp decline in income, the allowances have long been used up,” said 40-year-old Hiroyuki Noda, who ran an inn and a diving tour business on the island. “Considering tourism as the pillar of the island’s recovery, (the government’s response) is equivalent to no assistance at all.”
In other recent volcanic disasters, local authorities have pitched in to augment inadequate allowances. Takuro Kimura, who works at the Research Institute for Social Safety and is an expert on disaster relief, said, “There is no established relief policy on Miyake and (residents) have no means of supporting themselves financially.”
Kimura added that specific measures pertaining to volcanic disaster relief should be included in the relief law. In Hokkaido, for instance, the prefectural government paid an average monthly allowance of 70,000 yen to households affected by the Mount Usu eruption in 2000.
“Damage continues every day and some residents are giving up the idea of returning to the island,” said Shushi Sato, head of the Miyake residents liaison. “The revision of the relief law only on allowances for residences is not enough. Assistance for living after returning to the island is also necessary.”