Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited typhoon-hit island Izu Oshima Island on Sunday and declared that it will be put on the fast track for designation as an area hit by a “disaster of extreme severity.” This designation would then allow communities on the island about 120 km south of Tokyo – hit by what was termed by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) as a “once a decade” kind of storm because of its strength – to receive higher central government subsidies for reconstruction from the devastation brought on by the Typhoon Wipha.
The storm had caused fatal mudslides on the island that destroyed houses and buried residents alive on Oct. 16, leaving 32 people dead and nine missing. Abe said the government will review the weather guidelines for issuing evacuation alerts amid criticism that warnings were delayed by extreme adherence to rules and regulations. “The implementation (of the guidelines) will be improved through such measures as establishing hotlines between the national government and heads of local communities,” the prime minister said. Abe had originally planned to visit Izu Oshima on Oct. 20 but postponed the trip due to bad weather.
There had been a big discussion on the relative failure of the local authorities to issue evacuation alerts during the storm. There was also the issue of the island’s mayor being away when the crisis hit. The local weather authority failed to issue evacuation alerts, even though the JMA had already put out a warning for an “extraordinary” situation developing and alerted both the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the island, which is administered by the capital. Moreover, there was a strong contention that because of the government’s adherence to the use of fax machines, the warnings were not able to go out fast enough.
[via Japan Times]