Volunteers, municipalities and Self-Defense Forces personnel are working together to clean up the huge amounts of disaster waste left by powerful Typhoon Hagibis, which struck Japan a month ago.

The SDF is working to coordinate disaster waste and rubble removal efforts through officers dispatched to municipalities affected by the 19th named storm of the season.

Ground Self-Defense Force units have so far been deployed to Miyagi, Fukushima, Nagano and Ibaraki prefectures with trucks and heavy machinery. The GSDF has removed some 86,000 tons of waste so far.

Facilitating the cleanup work is the close cooperation between the SDF, local governments and volunteers.

In the city of Nagano, which suffered extensive flood damage due to a levee breach along the Chikuma River, volunteers, local citizens, local governments, the Environment Ministry and the SDF are sharing information and dividing up roles in the cleanup process under an initiative called One Nagano.

According to city and SDF sources, volunteers and citizens carry waste from disaster-struck homes to Akanuma Park, a temporary collection site in the city, during the day. The SDF uses heavy machinery and trucks to transport the waste out of the district at night.

Despite the collaboration, however, it is uncertain when the disaster waste will be fully removed, because local roads are narrow, limiting traffic.

Defense Minister Taro Kono emphasized the importance of a clear division of labor to accelerate the cleanup.

“We have reached the stage where we can write in manuals what should be done by the Environment Ministry, the SDF and municipalities, and what by volunteers,” he said.

Last year, the GSDF deployed about 13,000 dump trucks for disaster waste removal in the aftermath of torrential rains mainly in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures, according to the Defense Ministry.

Environment Ministry estimates say that a possible massive earthquake along the Nankai Trough off the Pacific coast could produce up to 320 million tons of disaster waste, or about 16 times the amount generated by the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that mainly hit the Tohoku region in March 2011.

The ministry also predicts that if another quake hits directly beneath Tokyo, up to 110 million tons, or five times that of the 2011 disaster, could be produced.

The ministry is asking local governments nationwide to prepare for such large-scale disasters by drawing up disaster waste disposal plans, covering areas such as the selection of temporary storage sites and cooperation with neighboring local governments.

As of the end of March 2018, however, less than 30 percent of the country’s municipalities had made such plans.

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