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97 volunteer centers opened in Japan after Typhoon Hagibis

Tokyo, Nov. 12 (Jiji Press)–Ninety-seven volunteer centers have been opened in disaster-hit areas since Typhoon Hagibis struck Japan a month ago, with over 130,000 citizens taking part in volunteer activities to help with restoration work.

The number of volunteer centers, spanning 14 prefectures, is the second largest ever in the country, following the 196 centers set up in 24 prefectures after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that mainly hit northeastern Japan, according to the Japan National Council of Social Welfare.

The latest figure “shows the huge extent of the damage” caused by the 19th typhoon of the year, a council official said. Last year, 60 centers were opened in 12 prefectures following the torrential rains in western Japan in July that year.

Volunteer centers are typically set up by local social welfare councils. They receive requests from disaster-stricken areas regarding types of volunteer work needed, accept applications from volunteers and act as coordinator between the volunteers and the affected areas.

As of Sunday, some 133,500 people had taken part in volunteer activities, according to the national council.

n a severely inundated district in the city of Nagano, an 85-year-old apple farmer was helped by volunteers with work to remove mud from his flooded house and dispose of damaged household articles.

“Apple farming is the key industry of this region,” he said. “I hope that the industry will recover so young people can gain hope.”

“We were really saved by the many volunteers,” said a woman who works at an automobile factory in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan.

“I don’t know how much time we will need to restore (the flooded factory) to its previous state, but we must handle this by ourselves,” she said.

The way volunteer centers are run may have some room for improvement, however. Volunteers are not distributed evenly, and some affected areas suffer a shortage of volunteer workers.

Furthermore, centers often have to spend a lot of time dealing with numerous basic inquiries from would-be volunteers, such as “Where should I go?” and “How can I get there?”

To address the uneven distribution, some centers are operating bus services to take volunteers to areas in desperate need of help.

The land ministry has confirmed 140 levee breaches along 71 rivers in seven prefectures, including Miyagi and Fukushima, which is also in northeastern Japan.

A total of 884 landslides had been confirmed as of Friday. The figure is the largest for typhoon-induced landslides since records began in 2004.

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