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Japan calls up SDF reserves for typhoon disaster relief

  • October 27, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 3:57 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Oct. 27 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Defense Ministry has called up Self-Defense Forces ready reserves and reserves for a disaster-relief mission after powerful Typhoon Hagibis, in consideration of the extensive damage and expected relief activities for a prolonged period.

It was the first time that such reserves have been mobilized since the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In addition to 31,000 active SDF personnel, the ministry has called up more than 260 SDF ready reserves and reserves to engage in work to remove debris and mud and provide public hygiene support in prefectures including Miyagi, Fukushima, Tochigi and Nagano. The number of reserve personnel will be boosted up to 1,000 depending on the situations in disaster areas.

A senior ministry official said road repair and debris removal may take even longer due to damage from torrential rains after the typhoon, the 19th of the year.

As of the end of March 2019, there were about 34,000 SDF reserves including some 2,400 women. They consist of former SDF personnel and other civilians who have undergone set education and training, and usually work for private-sector companies.

The number of SDF ready reserves, made up of former SDF personnel in principle, stood at about 4,300. SDF ready reserves and reserves are mobilized upon the prime minister’s approval.

A total of 1,600 SDF ready reserves and reserves were involved in disaster-relief activities after the March 2011 calamity. SDF ready reserves were also called up after powerful earthquakes in and around Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, in 2016 and a strong quake that hit Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, in September last year.

In fiscal 2018, SDF members dispatched on disaster-relief missions after a spate of large-scale flood disasters and quakes totaled 1.19 million, hitting the highest level since the March 2011 disaster.

There are some 220,000 active SDF personnel, falling short of the enrollment quota. With SDF ready reserves accounting for some 50 pct of the quota and SDF reserves 70 pct, the ministry faces the challenge of covering the personnel shortages.

The ministry provides 510,000 yen annually per head to companies that employ SDF ready reserves as they need to take part in long training.

In addition, it has created a system of paying benefits to employers when SDF ready reserves and reserves are called up for missions. In the latest mission after the typhoon, companies received daily benefits of 34,000 yen per head, in the first application of the payment system.

At a recent news conference, Defense Minister Taro Kono said that the amount of work expected of the SDF in times of disaster will not decrease and that SDF ready reserves and reserves need to play greater roles accordingly. The government will make efforts to win the support of employers to secure reserve personnel, Kono said.

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