Local Govts in Japan to Step Up Measures For Earthquakes; Building Improvements the Most Common Plan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A member of an emergency disaster relief team reports on its activities in Chuo Ward, Osaka, on Feb. 8.

About 60% of major local governments aim to strengthen their disaster prevention and management measures in the next fiscal year in the wake of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, according a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

The survey was conducted on a total of 98 local governments — those of all 47 prefectures, 20 ordinance-designated major cities, and 31 prefectural capitals other than designated cities.

The local governments were asked to cite, through questions allowing for multiple answers, new and expanded disaster management measures planned in their budgets for next fiscal year, which begins on April 1, such as making buildings earthquake-resistant or improving shelters.

Fifty-nine of the local governments replied that they plan such measures.

By type of measures, 29 local governments, the highest number, cited making buildings more earthquake-resistant.

Practically, they cited such actions as analyzing the quake-resistance capabilities of wooden buildings and increasing subsidies for refurbishment.

At the time of this year’s earthquake, only about 50% of residential buildings in Ishikawa Prefecture’s hard-hit Okunoto region, the northern part of the Noto Peninsula, met quake-resistance standards that have been in effect since 1981.

The figure was far lower than the national average of about 90%, contributing to a situation in which a large number of victims were trapped under collapsed houses.

In Fukui Prefecture, which neighbors Ishikawa Prefecture, the prefectural government will subsidize 100% of refurbishment costs up to a cap of ¥1.5 million.

According to the prefectural government’s construction and housing section, elderly homeowners tend to shy away from quake-resistance refurbishments as they feel the financial burden is too heavy.

Thus the prefectural government aims to encourage work to improve quake resistance by reducing the owners’ financial burdens.

Damage to water supply lines in the recent disaster has made life difficult for evacuees in the Noto Peninsula. Thus, a large number of local governments intend to include improvements to conditions in shelters in their projects for next fiscal year.

The Tokyo metropolitan government will expand its supply of portable toilet devices by additionally purchasing enough for 400,000 people.

The Osaka prefectural government will introduce trailers with toilet facilities.

In the quake-hit areas, base stations for mobile phones became unable to work. Securing telecommunications has therefore become another point to address.

The Tokyo metropolitan government will place 77 antennas in the metropolitan government office building and all of Tokyo’s municipalities. The antennas will be exclusively for using the Starlink satellite telecommunications networks of SpaceX, a U.S. space development company.

Prefectural governments including those of Osaka, Yamanashi and Shizuoka also plan to introduce the system.

In the Noto Peninsula, arterial roads were cut off by the quake in many places, and thus many small communities were isolated. The situation obstructed rescue and restoration work.

The Nagano prefectural government decided to increase its budget for road improvements. Projects include widening roads on which large vehicles now can not pass each other and repairing roads at risk of landslides. The prefectural government has earmarked funds for the purpose.

Prof. Ryosuke Aota of the University of Hyogo, an expert on disaster management administration, said: “This time’s earthquake reminded people that a similar huge quake could occur anywhere, so a sense of urgency increased nationwide. It is difficult for affected prefectural and municipal governments alone to respond to large-scale disasters. It is necessary to support disaster-hit areas on a nationwide level by cooperating with central and other prefectural governments.”