60% of Japanese commuters kept going to their workplace after June Osaka quake, survey shows

Kyodo

About 60 percent of commuters went on to their workplace rather than return home following the major earthquake that struck northern Osaka Prefecture during the June 18 morning rush hour, according to an online survey of 500 people who were on a train at the time of the quake.

The survey by Tadahiro Motoyoshi, a professor of disaster psychology at Kansai University’s Faculty of Social Safety Sciences, found that 304 of the people persevered with the morning commute, while 196 returned home.

A closer look shows that of the 173 respondents who were closer to their home than their workplace when the magnitude 6.1 quake occurred at 7:58 a.m., 62 opted to keep on heading toward work.

“Those people may have had a weaker sense of crisis because they did not see any heavy damage,” Motoyoshi said. “Forcing oneself to head to work could expand the chaos and confusion as it could increase the number of people left stranded away from home.”

The survey, which targeted commuters living in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Nara prefectures, found that from the moment the quake hit, 57 people took another 30 to 60 minutes to arrive at their office, followed by 47 who took another two to three hours and 45 people who took another 60 to 90 minutes.

More than half of the respondents said they were left without any information about when train services would resume. Following the quake, about 200,000 train passengers were temporarily stranded. Some lines did not resume operations until late that night.

As of Sunday, 182 people were still taking refugee in 30 evacuation shelters in Osaka. The earthquake damaged 22,497 residences in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Nara prefectures, according to authorities. Many of these homes are unsafe or otherwise unusable, and their residents have had to find temporary accommodations elsewhere.

The Osaka Prefectural Government said it wants to provide public and private housing to evacuees whose residences were damaged so that it can shut down the shelters by the end of July. Osaka evacuation centers accommodated as many as 2,397 people in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

According to the Disaster Relief Act, provisional housing will be offered for free for two years to people whose residences were destroyed. But Osaka Prefecture is set to create its own scheme to provide temporary housing for free for up to one year to people whose residences were only partially damaged if their local municipality concludes it would be difficult for them to return home.

The prefecture has already secured 120 public housing units and plans to rent private apartments that will be made available to quake victims.

The prefecture is also preparing to launch a special interest-free loan program for housing repairs, offering up to ¥2 million.

“Since state financial aid does not apply (to some victims), the Osaka Prefectural Government will extend its own assistance. I think our programs cater to their specific needs,” Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui said.