A year after Kumamoto Prefecture was rocked by a series of big earthquakes, including the deadly temblors last April 14 and 16 that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of houses, reconstruction is gradually making progress, particularly in damaged public infrastructure. But the presence of more than 40,000 residents still in temporary housing after losing their homes to the quakes testifies to the need for long-term public support to help them rebuild their lives.
The death toll from the quakes reached 225 in Kumamoto and neighboring Oita Prefecture. Among the victims, the number of people who died over the past year of indirect causes — such as illnesses exacerbated by tough conditions of life in evacuation — is more than three times that of those who were killed by direct causes of the quakes. That underscores the risk of health damage to disaster-affected people from extended life in temporary conditions, as had happened to many others in earlier major disasters like the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Efforts need to be hastened to help them secure permanent housing.
The powerful quakes that each registered the maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale damaged more than 190,000 houses and buildings, mainly in Kumamoto, including roughly 8,000 that were destroyed. Public facilities were turned into emergency shelters to accommodate tens of thousands of residents who lost their homes or feared for their safety amid continued big aftershocks.