Self-Defense Forces members collect piled-up waste and debris from streets in the quake-hit city of Kumamoto on Thursday. | KYODO
KUMAMOTO – More than 1,000 seismic events had been recorded as of Thursday in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures in the two weeks since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck central Kyushu, according to the Meteorological Agency.
The frequency, ranging from minor jolts to the magnitude-7.3 temblor that occurred two days after the initial April 14 quake, is unusually high, the agency said, noting the nation’s total last year was 1,842. It warned people should stay alert for more earthquakes.
Major transportation lines have rapidly recovered in the region, with bullet train services on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line resuming on all tracks as of Wednesday. The Kyushu Expressway is expected to fully reopen on Friday.
But repairs to smaller roads have lagged, with rocks, trees and debris from buildings severing routes in at least 295 locations.
Debris generated by the earthquakes has piled up on streets in parts of the city of Kumamoto, with public garbage collection services hard-pressed to cope, prompting the Self-Defense Forces to help haul away waste starting on Thursday.
Some 90 SDF members helped move burnable debris onto privately-run garbage trucks in the morning. They then used seven SDF vehicles to carry home electronics and other nonburnable waste to disposal sites.
Some 30,000 people are still sheltering at evacuation centers in Kumamoto Prefecture. The prefectural government has decided to secure some 4,200 temporary housing units, half through construction and the other half by renting, using a supplementary budget of ¥36.6 billion for fiscal 2016.
While the earthquakes alone have killed 49 people, the prolonged evacuation has also taken a toll, with 16 people suspected to have died as of Wednesday due to illness caused by stress and fatigue and other quake-related causes.
Nearly 100 people have been diagnosed with or suspected to have so-called economy class syndrome, caused by prolonged inactivity, according to a Kyodo News survey.
The central government adopted an ordinance Thursday for extending deadlines for some administrative procedures, including updating driving licenses.
Among the more than 200 special measures expected to be launched based on the ordinance is one to freeze bankruptcy procedures for companies that went bust due to the earthquakes for a maximum of two years. The measure is designed to prevent chain-reaction bankruptcies.
Cabinet ministers plan to visit the quake-hit areas in the coming days to view the damage and help speed up recovery efforts.
Transport minister Keiichi Ishii said Thursday he will visit affected areas Friday and Saturday to inspect damage to local infrastructure and exchange opinions with Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima.
Culture minister Hiroshi Hase will on Sunday visit the city of Kumamoto, home to Kumamoto Castle, a major tourist attraction that suffered severe damage in the quakes.
Internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi will also visit affected areas in Kumamoto Prefecture on Monday and hold talks with Kabashima and Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Onishi.