National

Government seeks more volunteers to help in typhoon-affected areas

JIJI

The government is asking for more volunteers to help with the recovery effort in areas devastated by typhoons Faxai and Hagibis, hoping to speed up the process.

Faxai, the 15th storm of the year, caused massive damage in Chiba Prefecture in September while Hagibis, the 19th such storm, caused extensive upheaval in central and northeastern parts of the country last month.

Concerns are growing over a possible decrease in the number of volunteers as the weather gets colder.

“We hope that as many people as possible will participate by using their days off, so that housing will be rebuilt early,” a senior official at the Cabinet Office said.

According to a Cabinet Office survey, social welfare councils in 110 municipalities of 14 prefectures had opened volunteer centers as of the end of October.

About 72,000 people participated in volunteer activities such as removing mud from houses, carrying relief goods to shelters and providing emergency meal services.

The government held a meeting in Tokyo with volunteers Tuesday to share information.

“The gap is big between areas with brisk volunteer activities and those suffering a lack of volunteers,” the official at the Cabinet Office said.

At the meeting, a volunteer who worked in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, reported a lack of volunteers in the municipalities, both of which had been hit by floods.

“The areas lacked enough volunteers, unlike in easily accessible areas,” the volunteer said. “Disaster victims are still overloaded with work to clean their homes.”

In the city of Nagano, which suffered massive flooding, the municipal government is working with local residents, volunteers and Ground Self-Defense Force personnel to dispose of disaster waste and debris.

Locals and volunteers move the refuse gathered in each district to collection points such as parks and other facilities, from where the SDF collects it.

The city’s government was aiming to attract as many as 2,500 volunteers per day for the initiative over the three-day holiday weekend, which started Saturday.

The Cabinet Office hopes that similar moves will start in other areas.

On Friday, the disaster management minister, Ryota Takeda, said, “For early recovery in affected areas, collaboration between volunteers and local municipalities is important.”

The central government has asked business groups to take steps so that companies will allow their employees to take leave to help with the effort.

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