KOBE – Japanese teachers are taking lessons learned from the 1995 earthquake that devastated the city of Kobe 25 years ago next Friday and using them as part of an effort form disaster relief teams across the nation.
The first was launched in 2000 in Hyogo Prefecture, which was hit hardest by the Great Hanshin Earthquake that killed 6,434 people and registered a maximum of 7 on the Japanese earthquake intensity scale.
The Emergency and Rescue Team by school staff in Hyogo, or EARTH, was established to assist other areas of the country in order to repay them for help received in the aftermath of the temblor.
The Hyogo team started with just 90 teachers and other school staffers. It now has 220 members.
In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and the April 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes, the group sent teams to the disaster areas. They provided shelter management assistance, provided mental health care to children and helped local schools reopen.
Between disasters, the group provides disaster response information to educational facilities in Hyogo Prefecture and elsewhere.
A second team was set up in Kumamoto Prefecture in June 2018 after the massive earthquakes there raised awareness of the need for such an initiative by the prefecture’s education board.
The Kumamoto team sent members to areas affected by a powerful earthquake in Osaka Prefecture and severe rains in western Japan, both in 2018.
Only last month, a similar group comprising 28 teachers and others was launched in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the three northeastern prefectures hit hardest by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“We hope to provide help to disaster areas in the future,” said Takashi Chubachi, 43, a member of the Miyagi team.
In the prefecture of Mie, a disaster relief team of teachers is expected to be created in autumn. The prefectural education board aims to eventually secure about 80 members.
The launch of a similar group is also being considered in Hokkaido, with support from the Hyogo team. The northernmost region of Japan experienced its own devastating quake in 2018.
“We’re very heartened” by these moves, said Hiroshi Asahori, 57, a high school teacher in Hyogo and an inaugural member of the group EARTH . “Cooperation would be easier if such teams are formed across the country.”
Asahori also said that sharing lessons learned from experiences with other devastating events in other prefectures will make it easier to respond to various types of disasters.
“We hope that the national government will consider a system to allow (disaster relief teams from) different prefectures to collaborate,” Asahori said.