Kishida pledges travel aid program 6 months after Ishikawa quake

by Jul 1, 2024Featured Article, News

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Monday to launch a tourism subsidy program to support the Noto Peninsula on the Sea of Japan coast, just six months after the region was hit hard by a powerful earthquake on Jan 1.

In Nanao in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kishida told reporters that the central government is preparing to introduce a project involving a 70 percent discount for those who visit the Noto area, the epicenter of the New Year’s Day disaster.

Earlier Monday, Kishida participated in an opening ceremony for a task force to promote reconstruction efforts that was established by his government in Wajima, one of the cities on the peninsula. It marked his third visit to the disaster area since February.

The task force comprises around 150 full-time staff members, aiming to accelerate recovery by sharing information across ministries and agencies on issues facing the disaster-hit area, such as the demolition of collapsed buildings and labor shortages.

With main roads, key infrastructure and farms still disrupted in the prefecture, the death toll from the magnitude-7.6 quake has risen to roughly 300, including those who died of disaster-related causes after evacuating their homes, official data showed.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference on Monday that the construction of about 5,000 temporary houses has been completed, adding the government hopes the victims “who have lost their homes can move into them as soon as possible.”

Last week, the Kishida administration decided to newly spend 139.6 billion yen from reserve funds for fiscal 2024 to rebuild infrastructure, support local farmers, foresters and fishers as well as implement measures to step up reconstruction.

In the disaster-stricken area of Ishikawa Prefecture, untouched rubble remains, but people are trying to return to their daily lives as volunteers continue to work hard.

Shinichi Nakayama, a 57-year-old civil servant from Higashimurayama in Tokyo, who has visited Suzu — also heavily struck by the earthquake — almost every week since May, said, “The damage is so severe that my heart aches every time I come here.”

“If there’s anything I can do, I’d like to come back as many times as possible,” Nakayama said.