National

Quake-hit Kumamoto pledges more housing help three years after disaster

Kyodo

The governor of Kumamoto Prefecture said Monday that greater efforts would be made to help resettle those displaced in two powerful earthquakes that struck three years ago in the prefecture and its vicinity, causing disasters that claimed 273 lives.

“We will speed up our efforts so everyone can secure housing,” said Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima at a meeting of the prefectural government’s reconstruction task force, noting that over 16,000 people remain in temporary housing in disaster-hit areas.

On April 14, 2016 a magnitude 6.5 quake struck the region, followed by a magnitude 7.3 temblor two days later.

Fifty people were killed when buildings collapsed on top of them and 223 others died in the aftermath of the disaster, while more than 200,000 residences were destroyed or damaged in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures.

A ceremony marking the third anniversary of the first quake was held Sunday at the prefectural government offices, with some 350 people attending. “There is no end to my sorrow, but I would like to live an independent life and help reconstruct our village,” said Keisuke Masuda, 81, from Minamiaso, Kumamoto, at the ceremony, representing families of the disaster victims.

Masuda temporarily lived with his son in Tokyo after losing his wife, 79-year-old Fumiyo, and their home in the disaster, but returned to Kumamoto thinking he should be close to her. He now lives alone in temporary housing.

By the end of last year, the prefecture had finished demolishing more than 35,600 damaged buildings with public funds, and processing some 3.11 million tons of waste left by the disaster.

Still, 16,519 people remain in temporary housing and homes rented out by the private sector, the cost of which is being shouldered by local governments, according to the prefecture.