The government said Tuesday it has introduced a special relief measure to allow foreign trainees and skilled workers in the central Japan area hit by a recent powerful earthquake to remain in work even if their employers go out of business due to the disaster.

The Immigration Services Agency said foreign technical interns or specified skilled workers residing in 47 municipalities in Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures can be employed for up to eight hours at workplaces not designated under their programs.

The special measure was introduced after the magnitude 7.6 temblor rocked the Noto Peninsula and its vicinity in central Japan on New Year's Day, leaving at least 220 people dead.

Rescue efforts in many disaster-stricken areas are continuing more than two weeks after the quake hit. The relief steps are effective for three months but can be extended if employers are unable to restart their businesses within the period.

In the hardest-hit Ishikawa Prefecture, there were over 6,600 technical interns and skilled workers as of the end of June last year.

Foreign employees under the technical intern and specified skilled worker programs are allowed to work for designated firms and industries.