With Knowledge Based on Experience, Japan can Provide Effective Assistance

Japan knows firsthand the hardships caused by a major earthquake and the long, arduous road to recovery. It is hoped that Tokyo will provide long-term support, drawing on its experience in responding to earthquakes and its knowledge of such matters as earthquake-resistant technologies.

The death toll from the massive earthquake that struck southern Turkey on Feb. 6 has exceeded 57,000 in Turkey and neighboring Syria combined.

According to the U.N. Development Program, several million people lost their homes, and the damage is estimated to exceed ¥13 trillion in Turkey alone.

In the affected areas, many people still continue to live as evacuees in poor conditions. First and foremost, there is an urgent need to establish a system to provide hot meals and nursing facilities for the elderly.

There are also fears of prolonged evacuation leading to a deterioration in public safety and social stability. The international community needs to extend a helping hand to affected people, to secure housing and rebuild their lives.

At an international conference on disaster relief organized by the European Union on March 20, with EU member states and other entities in attendance, the pledged contributions from each country totaled around ¥980 billion.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attended the conference online and described Japan’s emergency humanitarian aid package of about ¥3.5 billion. He also expressed Japan’s intention to dispatch experts to assist in making buildings earthquake-resistant.

The circle of support is also expanding at the level of the Japanese people. Many donations representing people’s goodwill have been made to the relief fund.

Architect Shigeru Ban has provided a paper partition system that gives victims privacy in evacuation centers. This system has been used after disasters in Japan as well.

It is necessary to continue providing Japan’s disaster prevention technology and dispatching personnel to help support reconstruction efforts, and not just provide support as a temporary action. This would also be a way to repay Turkey for its dispatch of an aid team and its cooperation in the search for missing persons after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Another issue is how to minimize damage in earthquake-prone Turkey from now on. It has been pointed out that even if there are strict earthquake resistance standards, illegal construction and slipshod work are rampant in that country, leading to the collapse of many buildings during the latest earthquake.

The Turkish government has pledged to rebuild safe buildings in the affected areas. Careful management of construction and building inspections are essential to that end. Japan should also take the lead in helping to train human resources in this field.

Civil war is still raging in Syria, and the actual extent of the damage there is unclear. Routes into the affected areas are also limited. With assistance hard to come by, there are concerns about the spread of contagious diseases. It is hoped that the United Nations will continue to make every possible effort to prevent the humanitarian crisis from spreading.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 29, 2023)