With applications for a loan relief program from victims of last year’s Typhoon Hagibis remaining sluggish, the Sendai Bar Association is calling on people affected by the disaster to seek early consultations with experts, such as lawyers or administrative bodies.

Victims may suffer disadvantages if they take out loans without knowledge of the program, said an official at the bar association. The association in Sendai has a history of supporting victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which hit Miyagi and neighboring prefectures particularly hard.

The loan relief program for disaster victims was created after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. If people are facing difficulties repaying debt due to calamities that the disaster relief law has been applied to and they draw up repayment plans, loans from banks and other creditors can be reduced or eliminated.

According to the Tokyo-based operator of the program, a total of over 200 applications had been made through the end of December last year from victims of heavy rains that struck western Japan in 2018. Debts were reduced partially or totally in 95 cases.

Meanwhile, there had been no more than about 20 applications as of the end of last month from victims of Typhoon Hagibis, which tore through the country in October. In Miyagi, the number of applications stood at only three as of last Friday.

“Some residents are concerned about double loans while we have still been unable to regain calm in our lives,” said Shinpei Sakuma, a 71-year-old resident of the Gofukuya district in the town of Marumori, which suffered heavy damage from landslides triggered by the flooding of an Abukuma River tributary due to Typhoon Hagibis.

“It’s difficult for us to fully understand a range of support programs available for disaster victims all by ourselves and to choose any of them,” he said.

“The program will highly likely be inapplicable if victims receive loans before making applications for the program,” said Toshikazu Komukai, a 44-year-old lawyer belonging to the Sendai Bar Association. “We want victims to have consultations with lawyers or administrative officials at an early time.”

The association offers free consultation services by phone or in person.

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