Noto Peninsula Earthquake: Work to Restore Infrastructure Faces Extreme Difficulties

Two weeks have passed since the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, and running water and electricity continue to be cut off in the affected areas. Communications disruptions continue as well. The administrative services and companies responsible for this infrastructure must do their utmost to restore it.

In Ishikawa Prefecture, about 55,500 households in eight municipalities did not have running water as of Monday. In six of these municipalities, including the cities of Wajima and Suzu, water service was still unavailable in most areas.

Water pipes are broken everywhere, and in some cases, the equipment that pumps river water to water purification plants has reportedly been damaged.

Water is indispensable for daily life. A prolonged suspension of water services will lead directly to the deterioration of the living conditions of the people affected by the disaster. Therefore, the quick restoration of running water must be given top priority.

There are concerns about the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 at evacuation centers, where many people gather, but evacuees cannot wash their hands sufficiently. It is feared that a sanitary environment cannot be maintained because toilets cannot be flushed with water.

Although many water trucks have been dispatched to the affected areas by local governments from across the nation and the Self-Defense Forces, they have not been able to provide water widely across the affected areas. The amount is also insufficient.

The central government should take the lead to dispatch more water trucks to the affected areas by encouraging other local governments and the Self-Defense Forces to enhance their support.

Power outages continue for about 8,300 households in Ishikawa Prefecture, and 1,000 people, including support from other electric power companies besides Hokuriku Electric Power Co., are working to temporarily restore utility poles and power lines.

Communications disruptions have also occurred, and more than 200 cell phone base stations of NTT Docomo, Inc. and three other major telecommunications companies stopped working. The leading companies are cooperating on such efforts as deploying mobile base stations.

However, such restoration work is reportedly facing difficulties because it is often impossible to approach the sites due to damaged roads and landslides. The workers involved face immeasurable hardships.

In particular, the restoration of running water is expected to take several months. Therefore, it would be realistic to encourage people to make a “secondary evacuation,” meaning move to a place outside the disaster areas, until running water is restored, if they wish.

The central and Ishikawa prefectural governments have secured secondary evacuation shelters, such as inns and hotels in Ishikawa Prefecture and elsewhere, that can accommodate a total of about 30,000 people, but only about 1,000 people have used these facilities.

These evacuation shelters are arranged by governments and are free of charge. However, false information that users will have to pay has been circulating in some areas. This may be one of the reasons why affected people are hesitant to use these shelters. The spread of false information should be prevented.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2024)