Noto Peninsula Earthquake: Promoting The Steady Demolition of Damaged Houses

The work to demolish and remove houses damaged by a major disaster is the first step toward reconstruction. The central government should promote the establishment of necessary systems and the provision of manpower to ensure that the work is implemented steadily.

Many houses collapsed in the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. Most of them have been left in the same state since, with demolition and removal work not progressing as expected.

There is a system of publicly funded demolition in which owners of damaged houses apply for the local government to conduct the demolition and removal in their place. The Ishikawa prefectural government estimates that about 22,000 houses will be demolished at public expense and it has received applications for 8,000 or more houses so far.

However, only nine houses have been demolished to date. Since the affected areas are still facing many other challenges, such as the restoration of the water supply and the construction of temporary housing, the reality is that they cannot sufficiently deal with the demolition and removal work.

If the damaged houses are left unattended, not only could they collapse, but there is a risk of them becoming a source of foul odors and harmful insects. It is therefore important for the demolition and removal work to be facilitated.

In order to get the work underway in earnest, it will be essential to secure local government employees to handle the administrative work.

Publicly funded demolition takes time and effort, such as verifying application documents. The owners of the houses to be demolished must be present at the sites before the demolition work begins. However, as there are many people who moved from their first evacuation site to a second one and others who have moved away, adjusting the schedule for them is also taking time. The affected local governments alone are unable to deal with the large number of applications.

The Environment Ministry has gathered staff members with extensive experience in disaster response from local governments that were affected by past disasters and has dispatched them to the Noto area. The demolition work is expected to take a long time. It is hoped that the ministry will make efforts to provide continuous support.

Securing accommodations for the workers is also important. In order for the work to proceed efficiently, it is necessary for a large number of workers from both inside and outside the prefecture to be gathered, but there is little land in the affected places on which to build lodgings. Hopefully, neighboring municipalities and the prefectural government will cooperate in providing land and accommodations.

From the residents’ perspective, the complexity of the application process is an issue and some are unable to apply even if they want to.

Publicly funded demolition requires the consent of all the owners of the house, but for some old houses, the name of the owner has not been changed even after the owner’s death. In such cases, it is necessary to locate all persons entitled to the inheritance and obtain their consent.

In past disasters, some local governments decided to accept applications by having one representative write an oath. It is hoped that the central and local governments will consider how to facilitate the application process for residents, with reference to such an example.

After the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, it reportedly took slightly over two years to demolish 35,000 houses at public expense. Long-lasting support from a long-term perspective is needed.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2024)