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Volunteers, local gov’ts, SDF jointly tackling disaster waste

Nagano, Nov. 11 (Jiji Press)–Volunteers, municipalities and the Self-Defense Forces are working together to clean up the huge amounts of disaster waste left by powerful Typhoon Hagibis, which struck Japan a month ago.

The SDF is working to coordinate disaster waste and rubble removal efforts via officers dispatched to municipalities affected by the 19th typhoon of the year.

Ground SDF units have so far been deployed to Miyagi, Fukushima, Nagano and Ibaraki prefectures with trucks and heavy machinery. The GSDF has removed some 86,000 tons of waste.

Facilitating the cleanup work is the close cooperation between the SDF, local governments and volunteers.

In the central Japan city of Nagano, which suffered extensive flood damage due to a levee breach along the Chikuma River, volunteers, local citizens, local governments, the Environment Ministry and the SDF share information and divide up roles in the cleanup process under an initiative named “One Nagano.”

According to city and SDF sources, volunteers and citizens carry waste from disaster-struck homes to Akanuma Park, a temporary collection site in the city, during the day. The SDF uses heavy machinery and trucks to transport the waste out of the district at night.

Despite the collaboration effort, however, it remains uncertain when the disaster waste will be fully removed, because local roads are narrow, limiting traffic.

Defense Minister Taro Kono emphasized the importance of a clear division of labor to accelerate the cleanup, during his inspection of such work in Nagano earlier this month.

“We have reached the stage where we can write in manuals what should be done by the Environment Ministry, the SDF and municipalities, and what by volunteers,” he said.

Last year, the GSDF deployed about 13,000 dump trucks for disaster waste removal in the aftermath of torrential rains mainly in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures in July that year, according to the Defense Ministry.

Environment Ministry estimates say that a possible massive earthquake in the Nankai Trough off Japan’s Pacific coast could produce up to 320 million tons of disaster waste, or about 16 times the amount generated by the 9.0-magnitude temblor and tsunami that mainly hit northeastern Japan in March 2011.

The ministry also predicts that another possible quake directly beneath Tokyo could produce up to 110 million tons, or five times that of the 2011 disaster.

The ministry is asking local governments nationwide to prepare for such large-scale disasters by drawing up disaster waste disposal plans, including on the selections of temporary storage sites and cooperation with neighboring local governments.

As of the end of March 2018, however, less than 30 pct of the country’s municipalities had made such plans.

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