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About 60% of central government officials responsible for an initial response to serious earthquakes under the Tokyo metropolitan area live too far from their workplaces, according to a government survey.

As of Sept. 1 last year, the central government had 5,793 officials appointed as initial response members across its ministries and agencies — all of whom are supposed to live within six kilometers of their workplaces in Tokyo. Of these appointees, there were 3,575 who lived beyond that range.

The government plans to consider measures to resolve the problem as soon as possible, as the situation could lead to a delay in any initial response to such a disaster.

Last year, the government conducted a survey for the first time to count how many emergency response members were living within six kilometers of government offices in the Kasumigaseki district or Chiyoda Ward and the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Shinjuku Ward.

It found that only 2,218 people — approximately 40% — were living within the area.

Those in charge of the initial earthquake responses under the city have no legal obligation to live in the designated range. They are also not included in the list of government employees who can live in subsidized housing for public servants.

According to guidelines set by the Cabinet Office, however, they are supposed to live within a three-hour walk of their workplaces — or within six kilometers, assuming that their walking speed is two kilometers per hour — as the transportation network would be paralyzed following a major quake.

The low number of officials living within the six-kilometer range is partly due to sales of some government employee housing following criticism over preferential treatment of civil servants.

Between 2009 and 2020, the government reduced such housing options in Tokyo’s 23 special wards by around 5,000 units. Now they must face the issue of securing housing for emergency response members.

The government will discuss detailed measures, including possible reconstruction of existing government employee housing.

“Government ministries and agencies should share a sense of urgency and find a solution,” a government source said.

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