A government panel of experts has come up with an outline of recommendations on how to deal with heavy snow, which caused 150 deaths this winter season.
Proposals by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry panel include providing alternative housing during the winter for the elderly who have difficulty removing the snow from their roofs and training volunteers in safe snow removal.
The panel will finalize its recommendations in late May.
The ministry plans to act on the recommendations that can quickly be integrated into existing systems and to include cost estimates related to its heavy snow plans in its budget request for fiscal 2007, ministry officials said.
The panel plans to recommend that the government build facilities where elderly people who need help can live during the winter.
The town of Tsunami, Niigata Prefecture, already rents space in community centers to senior citizens who cannot remove snow from their roofs, according to the ministry. A room costs 5,000 yen to 7,000 yen a month.
The panel wants nonprofit organizations to train volunteers in regions with significant numbers of elderly people on how to safely remove snow from rooftops. It said many of the young people who offered to help over the last winter were inexperienced.
The government said last week that 150 snow-related deaths have been recorded since December, making it the third worst winter since World War II for deaths and disappearances caused by heavy snow.
For deaths alone, the 2005-2006 winter season had the second highest figure in the postwar era, as all bodies were recovered, it said.
The highest number of winter deaths and missing people since World War II was 231 in 1963, followed by 152 in 1980-1981.
For the 2005-2006 winter season, 893 people were seriously injured and 1,242 people suffered minor injuries.
In terms of property damage, 4,698 residential buildings were destroyed or damaged.