Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.41 (July 30, 2009)
During my visit, I went to see the expressway and National Highway 262, which both sustained significant damage. I also visited a special elderly nursing home hit by a landslide, which has caused many casualties.
I saw roads and houses buried under earth and stone. The evidence of the disaster was painful, and there are still people whose whereabouts are unknown. I pray for the repose of the souls of those who have lost their lives. I hope from the bottom of my heart that those whose whereabouts remain unknown are rescued in the most prompt manner and that those who suffered harm can recover as soon as possible.
The government will focus its energies on the restoration and reconstruction of the disaster-stricken region. As the first step, we have decided to frontload the allocation of tax revenues to the local governments struck by the disaster and have commenced measures to ease lending and repayment conditions for those who are engaged in the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries in the region, and for small and medium enterprises which have incurred damage.
I received a request directly from the Governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture to make the road section between Hofu West on the Sanyo Expressway and Yamaguchi on the Chugoku Expressway, a diversion for the severed National Highway 262, toll-free. I immediately requested this of an expressway company and the section was quickly made free-of-charge. This was reported in the local papers as an exceptionally speedy resolution.
With an increasing number of localized heavy rains, it is becoming more important than ever to remain vigilant toward disasters. The government, in cooperation with the local public authorities, will work to prevent and alleviate the damage caused by natural disasters. The government will also implement, as part of the Countermeasures to Address the Economic Crisis announced in April, flood control measures on a priority basis and enhance flood prediction technology with a high-precision radar network, in order to protect the regions from flood damage caused by sudden torrential rain.
In disaster countermeasures, it is important to be prepared at all times, not only in government, but on a local level too. I heard that some people were able to avoid significant disaster in Yamaguchi Prefecture thanks to the individuals who detected the danger and took the initiative in calling for evacuation.
Making it a habit to know where the local hazards and evacuation sites are, as well as your neighbors and whether single elderly people are living nearby, not only prevents disaster, but also increases the security of the region and leads to peace of mind in people's daily lives.
In the inflicted area, I saw members of the Self-Defense Forces, police, and firefighters making the utmost restoration efforts. I also felt deeply encouraged when I heard about the volunteers rushing to the region from around the country to assist the victims in any way that they can, engaging in activities such as removing furniture from houses, and clearing away earth and sand.
Friends and support when in need are blessings for which to be truly grateful. A society which facilitates self-help and mutual help, where its members assist themselves and assist one another, is also a society that is resilient to natural disasters.
The motto of the Boy Scouts, which I was a member of when I was a child, is "Be Prepared."
What is important is to keep a look out in our everyday lives not only for pressing dangers, but also for unseen, potential dangers and risks. On its part too, the government will steadily promote disaster countermeasures, to be prepared all the time for emergencies.
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