NIIGATA – The approach of winter has made securing sufficient housing a priority issue in Kawaguchi, Niigata Prefecture, where a series of earthquakes on Oct. 23 registered an intensity of 7, local officials said Tuesday.
The town sustained the worst damage from the temblors, which left four residents dead and 51 injured. The last time a 7-intensity quake hit Japan was in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Almost all of the town’s residents are living in shelters after 276 houses were destroyed and water and gas supplies were knocked out, the officials said.
“Depending on how the recovery work goes, we may need to ask all the residents to leave town for the entire winter,” said Kenji Koshiyama, a senior researcher at the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution operated by the Hyogo Prefectural Government. Niigata Prefecture appointed the organization as an adviser in postquake relief and reconstruction.
The death toll from the earthquakes rose to 37 on Tuesday.
The Niigata Prefectural Police said a 69-year-old man in Uonuma died of heart failure resulting from fatigue. Many evacuees have been suffering from fatigue and stress since moving into shelters and cars after the quakes.
The Niigata region gets some of the heaviest snowfall in Japan. The area around Kawaguchi usually has snowdrifts about 2 meters high by February.
Of the 2,263 buildings in Kawaguchi, 662, or 29 percent, have been designated by architectural experts as “dangerous” and will be torn down, while 695, or 31 percent, have been placed in the “caution necessary” category.
The results show that Kawaguchi’s situation is worse than other municipalities in Niigata Prefecture, the officials said.
Main roads in the town have been destroyed or damaged, making it difficult for construction vehicles to enter. Town officials have meanwhile been kept busy just maintaining the 53 shelters set up for the roughly 5,600 residents.
But reconstruction is progressing in other parts of the prefecture, enabling many residents to return home from emergency shelters.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, some 53,000 people remained in shelters in Niigata Prefecture, down 6,000 from Monday evening.
The probability of aftershocks with a magnitude of more than 5.5 in Niigata Prefecture and surrounding areas is expected to fall to less than 10 percent in mid-November and to the same percentage for magnitudes over 5.0 in mid-December, the Meteorological Agency said Tuesday.
A quake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.9 was felt in Niigata Prefecture at around 12.40 a.m. Tuesday, but no damage or injuries were reported.
The agency said the number of aftershocks since the devastating quakes of Oct. 23 is falling gradually and the possibility of aftershocks with a magnitude of 5.5 within three days from Tuesday morning is estimated at 20 percent, while that for magnitude 5 temblors is 40 percent in the same period.
LDP raps TV coverage
Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers complained Tuesday that TV stations did not broadcast footage of Niigata quake survivors showing gratitude, a top official of the ruling party said.
LDP Secretary General Tsutomo Takebe said after a meeting of the party’s Executive Council that the TV stations only presented the survivors as being disgruntled when key officials from the party and the government visited the region.
“There were no scenes on TV where (the officials) were given words of appreciation,” Takebe said.
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