Volunteer Activities in Full Swing in Noto amid Golden Week

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Aydin Muhammet’s employees distribute food to evacuees at an evacuation centre, in the aftermath of an earthquake, in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, January 5, 2024.

Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref. (Jiji Press)—With Japan in the midst of the Golden Week holiday period, volunteer activities are in full swing in areas hit by the Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Shortly after the 7.6-magnitude quake jolted the central Japan peninsula, people from outside the areas were asked to refrain from taking part in disaster relief activities to avoid traffic congestion, with many roads heavily damaged by the temblor.

Disaster-ravaged areas have gradually become accessible again since then. Some volunteers have begun entering such areas with their own vehicles, prompting local governments to prepare for an influx of volunteers during the holiday period through Monday.

According to a volunteer center in the Ishikawa town of Anamizu, over 90 people signed up as disaster volunteers a day on average between the start of the Golden Week in late April and Wednesday, up 1.6-fold from a week before.

Tetsuya Furuta, 45, who came from Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, helped carry out furniture from disaster-affected homes in late April. At that time, he said that it was his third day of volunteering in disaster-affected areas and that he was camping out in his vehicle.

“When I helped out in March, all volunteers had to first meet in Kanazawa (the capital of Ishikawa) and then travel by bus” to disaster-affected areas, he said.

“I’m glad because we can have more time to work if we meet up” in the disaster-hit areas, he said.

According to the Ishikawa prefectural government, a total of 66,000 disaster relief volunteers had worked as of April 16.

In late April, the Ishikawa branch of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, sent volunteers to the Iida district in the Ishikawa city of Suzu, shortly after water supplies were restored.

The volunteers went around homes asking residents if there was anything they needed, considering that local residents tend to refrain from asking for help even if they actually need support.

“Demand for volunteers will rise even further once temporary housing is completed and residents start returning,” an official at the city’s social welfare council said, voicing hopes for long-term volunteering activities.