National

Gov. Ichiro Matsui works to distribute donations more quickly for those affected by Osaka earthquake

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui is working to hand out donations quickly to those affected by the June 18 earthquake in northern Osaka Prefecture that killed five and injured over 400.

Matsui hopes to outpace the two months it has taken in the past for some local governments to provide funds following a natural disaster.

“Two months? No. Two weeks. They need cash to clean up,” he recently told prefectural officials.

But with 183 people still in temporary shelters as of Tuesday morning, Matsui’s efforts to speed up the process could face difficulty.

Donations have been solicited by the prefecture and the Japanese Red Cross Society. Normally, a committee is established following a disaster to decide how to distribute funds raised for bereaved families, the injured and for those who lost homes. The committee then sends the donations to the victims through local municipalities.

As of Monday damage had been confirmed at more than 7,000 residences within Osaka Prefecture, mostly in the cities of Takatsuki and Ibaraki near the epicenter of the magnitude 6.1 earthquake. Normally, in order to receive donations for rebuilding, damage claims must be investigated by local authorities who then issue a formal certificate of damage — a process that can take one to two weeks.

In the case of Takatsuki and Ibaraki, where much of the damage was to private homes, a system is being introduced where owners will be able to apply for financial aid by submitting photos as proof of damage. While this is intended to speed up the process to distributing funds, it can only be used for lightly damaged homes. There are also concerns that rushing the process could lead to less than thorough checks that fail to uncover hidden damage.

In past disasters on a scale similar to that of the Osaka quake, getting donations to homeowners took much longer. After the magnitude 6.6 earthquake in central Tottori Prefecture on October 21, 2016, over 10,000 homes suffered at least partial damage. Donations were not distributed until late December that year.

While pushing to speed up the disbursement of donations, Matsui also criticized those who had engaged in hate speech against ethnic Chinese and Korean residents following the quake.

“Osaka Prefecture continues its official message of not tolerating hate speech, and those who make such remarks on Twitter and social media have a problem with their human nature. But it’s extremely difficult to limit such speech under the current Constitution. It’s up to individuals to recognize such discriminatory comments and stifle them,” Matsui told reporters Monday.

After the quake, scores of tweets were seen labeling ethnic Koreans and Chinese as criminals who may take advantage of post-quake confusion to rob banks and convenience stores, and commit other crimes.