Japanese Communist Party Executive Committee Chair Shii Kazuo on January 17 published the following statement on the 10th anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake:
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, I express my cordial condolences to those who died in the quake and sympathy to all the surviving victims. The JCP reaffirms its commitment to make every effort to improve disaster prevention measures as well as disaster relief as one of the most important tasks to be dealt with by the government.
Today, reconstruction of many quake victims' lives has not yet been completed. "Solitary deaths" continue. In public housing for quake victims, including temporary housing facilities, 560 have died unattended. Many small businesses and local industries are still unable to recover from damage caused by the quake.
Ignoring these difficulties facing the victims, the national and local governments are intent on taking advantage of the 10th anniversary to end public assistance to victims through collection of "disaster relief loans", ejection of residents from public housing for victims, and termination of a grace for repayments of loans to small business owners. It is an important responsibility of the government to maintain and strengthen assistance to rehabilitate local economies as well as people's livelihoods, and not abandon them.
It is necessary to drastically change the government policy from one of using funds for "reconstruction projects" amounting to about 16.3 trillion yen for large public works projects, including the construction of Kobe Airport, to one of giving priority to helping victims put their lives back in order.
During the last ten years, the victims called for public financial assistance in rebuilding their houses. At long last, a livelihood reconstruction law for disaster victims has been enacted thanks to the persevering movement. However, the government still maintains that no public assistance is necessary for individuals to rebuild their houses. The major task is to break down this barrier.
Municipalities in Tottori and Niigata that experienced earthquakes, storms and floods have their respective public assistance programs to help rebuild houses damaged by natural disasters. The JCP demands that the livelihood reconstruction law for disaster victims be revised to establish a national system that provides public assistance in rebuilding houses.
An important lesson of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake is that local communities should be made disaster-resistant and that a more effective disaster prevention system is necessary. However, it cannot be said that the lesson was learned completely.
Little progress has been made in making schools, hospitals and other public institutions quake-proof, in carrying out quake-resistance examination of houses and their reinforcement if necessary, and in repairing embankments. The effort to strengthen fire-fighting capability is also slow. The government is backpedaling even on current disaster prevention measures. It is reducing the number of meteorological stations and planning to abolish the National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster, which has made a great contribution to the rescue of a child from under a mountain of rocks in the Niigata Earthquake.
The danger of an earthquake is everywhere on the Japanese archipelago. Tsunamis generated by earthquakes also pose a great danger as made clear from the recent major tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It is the responsibility of government to protect the people's lives and ensure their safety by making real efforts to establish disaster-resistant local communities and to strengthen the disaster-prevention systems, including observation, prediction, and alarm systems. (end)