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Ever since the city of Nagano was hit by massive floods caused by a strong typhoon last October, a group of local people has been playing an important role in supporting those affected by the disaster at a time when the number of volunteers is decreasing.

The city’s volunteer center accepted a total of about 62,000 relief workers from mid-October to the end of 2019. According to the Nagano prefectural social welfare council, however, the number of volunteers working in the city is on the decline, averaging some 300 per business day in December.

“Large numbers of support workers continue to be required, as needs among affected people are changing,” a council official said.

The group of local people was formed Oct. 20, about a week after Typhoon Hagibis tore through central and eastern Japan, including Nagano Prefecture. The group in the Hoyasu district in the city of Nagano offers meal services and provides relief supplies mainly to people at their own homes.

“I became eager to support disaster victims who don’t use evacuation centers, after recognizing that such people tend to face difficulty in receiving food and relief supplies,” Akio Ota, 68, leader of the group, said.

On top of delivering bento to victims staying at home, the group kicked off social activities in late November, in which lunch services are provided to residents at local community halls and other places in affected areas.

“I would be happy if the activities encourage, even if only slightly, affected people to make efforts toward reconstruction,” Ota said.

On Dec. 24, the group served affected local residents stew and chicken dishes, as well as cakes and coffee. “I had thought there would be no Christmas or New Year’s celebrations (in the wake of the disaster). Now I feel that I have to keep going,” Etsuko Yamaguchi, 52, who was coming to clean her parents’ inundated house, said in tears.

“My labor is limited, but I hope it will be of help to someone,” Maki Terashima, 49, a member of the Hoyasu support group and a worker at a facility for elderly people in the city, said of her reason for joining the group. Terashima is mainly in charge of accepting and delivering relief goods for the group.

The group initially had only about 10 members. But the number of supporters began to increase gradually after the group released information about its activities on Facebook, with hundreds of people having offered cooperation since.

Among the participants were those from other prefectures. “I feel enthusiasm among the participants about doing something for disaster victims,” Ota said.

The first social activities for this year were held Friday, with the group offering 150 servings of curry.

The group also plans to provide support so that the social activities can be organized by disaster victims themselves.

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