By ILIESA TORA
KUMAMOTO, Japan – October 25, 2019: 8.35am (Nuku’alofa Times): Securing partnerships, educating the masses and investing in infrastructure that will withstand natural hazards like earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and cyclones must be priorities for any country keen on reducing disaster risks.
That was the message that rang out loud and clear this afternoon during a presentation by the Mashiki Town Deputy Mayor Yasuhiko Mukai and his team at the town’s council office in Kumamoto.
Mr Mukai and Mr Taketsugu Iwamoto, the Deputy Director for the Mashiki Town Crisis Management Division, met with journalists and trainers from the Association for Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC) Japan Media Fellowship.
While presenting on the ‘Recovery from 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes’ and answering media questions Mr Mukai said they have learned a lot from the two consecutive earthquakes that hit them in April 2016.
“The learning has made us stronger,” Mr Mukai said. “The town is becoming more resilient – with the learning from the earthquakes..
“For Kumamoto as a whole, we hardly have earthquakes, so to do the preparedness was not really there. When this happened we have learned and know what to do now.
“We have learned to have the personnel, to store food and drinking water, to be prepared for disaster. We now have learned to make the houses disaster proof, the infrastructure to withstand hazards.
“And what is important is to work with the communities. We are telling people to know your neighbours, know where the evacuation centres are, how to get there and how to escape when needed.”
Mr Mukai said people from all over Japan have visited the area on study tours so they see what can be done..
“There are limitations to what we can do,” he said.
“Because of global warning there are things that can happen and reoccur but you need to be ready.
“Because of the shortage of personnel there were many who volunteered and helped, which was very much appreciated. Houses broke and collapsed. There were evaluations done and work on what is needed. Many offered land to build houses and others helped in the recovery work.”
As Mashiki slowly recovered the Town Council signed agreements with partner municipalities and corporate companies.
These agreements and partnerships would ensure there is assistance and help readily available when that is needed.
Mr Iwamoto said agreements included assistance with personnel and equipment from municipalities and the provision of equipment and supplies needed from corporate companies.
He said the task of educating people and making them aware of the risks and the need to be prepared is ongoing.
Kumamoto was hit by two earthquakes in April 2016.
The first one, measured with a magnitude of 6.5 on the richter scale, hit on April 14 while the second one hit with a magnitude of 7.3 on April 16.
Records confirm 20 direct deaths linked to the earthquakes with 25 related deaths and 135 people severely injured.
A total of 10,584 homes were either destroyed, partly damaged or badly damaged.
A budget of 10 Billion Yen was earmarked for the recovery and rebuilding work in Kumamoto.
- Iliesa Tora is part of the APIC Japan Media Fellowship in Kumamoto