The infrastructure ministry plans to request an increase in the number of personnel in charge of assisting municipalities in checking damage and providing emergency measures for roads and rivers in disaster-hit areas, Jiji Press has learned.
The request will be made as part of the ministry’s personnel plan for fiscal 2019, which starts next April, sources said.
The roles of such personnel, known as Technical Emergency Control Force, or TEC-FORCE, have taken on greater importance following a recent series of disasters that have included heavy rains and flooding in western Japan last month.
TEC-FORCE, set up in April 2008, consists of workers from the ministry’s eight regional development bureaus across the country. As of April 2018, the number of workers registered as TEC-FORCE members totaled 9,663.
TEC-FORCE members, who usually work on river management and road development in their own areas, organize teams in the event of disasters to provide support to affected municipalities.
TEC-FORCE teams were dispatched after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the series of powerful temblors in Kumamoto Prefecture in 2016, and after heavy rains drenched the northern part of the Kyushu region last year.
The number of annual TEC-FORCE dispatches stood in a range of 9-16 in fiscal 2013 to 2016, up from 3-7 in fiscal 2008 through 2012.
A number of municipalities face shortages of engineers who can investigate damage and take emergency measures promptly in the event of a disaster, the ministry said.
Many municipalities say support and expertise from TEC-FORCE helped them get a clear picture of damage quickly and lead to faster recovery, according to the ministry.