Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Preparations For Nankai Quake Hamstrung By Lack Of Funds
TOKYO (Nikkei)--Although the government is confident that the damage from the next huge earthquake can be cut in half with adequate preparations, it has yet to establish the funding sources and legal framework needed to implement those measures.
- Keiji Furuya at a press conference.
A major earthquake with its epicenter in the Nankai Trough off the coast of central and western Japan would cause up to 220 trillion yen in damage, according to an estimate a government panel released Monday.
Direct damage from the temblor can be halved from 169.5 trillion yen to 80.4 trillion yen through such steps as quake-proofing homes and public buildings, the government said. And it contends that the economic impact from fractured corporate production and disrupted services can be cut about 30% from 44.7 trillion yen to 31.8 trillion yen if employees can be evacuated quickly and other steps are taken.
However, these estimates are based on the assumption that disaster prevention and management measures will be fully implemented. For example, all buildings would have to become quake-resistant and have quake-sensing circuit breakers installed. Also, the figures assume that every fire would be extinguished early and everyone would be evacuated prior to a tsunami.
As of 2008, about 80% of buildings were quake-resistant. The Infrastructure Ministry has been providing subsidies to corporations, local governments and others to boost this figure to 90% by 2015. Quake-proofing is said to cost hundreds of billions of yen a year for the government and private sector combined. The government will have to find more financing to cover every building.
Last summer, when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito submitted a bill to the Diet outlining various ways to prepare for a major earthquake in the Nankai Trough, but this bill was shelved in the wake of political turmoil.
Local governments have started to take the initiative. Shizuoka Prefecture has raised the number of street signs indicating elevation more than sixfold to 11,237 over two years, and plans to draw up new earthquake and tsunami procedure consisting of about 150 items in June. And nine prefectures in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions signed a pact in March 2012 in which workers and relief materials will be dispatched in the event of a disaster.
The Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 shattered supply chains for autoparts and other products, mainly in northeastern Japan, temporarily disrupting production worldwide. If a major disaster cripples computer systems, such as those used by financial institutions to settle payments, the world's financial markets could be plunged into turmoil.
"Japan will be seen as having good risk management, leading to investments from around the world," if it implements the various disaster proposals, said Disaster Management Minister Keiji Furuya.
(The Nikkei, March 19 morning edition)