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Airbnb Japan urges hosts to provide free stays to Kumamoto quake evacuees

Airbnb's Kumamoto emergency accomodation website is seen in this screenshot.

People in Kumamoto Prefecture without a place to stay after the major earthquakes of April 14 and 16 may find free lodging through the Airbnb accommodation introduction website, after the firm began asking its roster of hosts on April 15 to open their rooms to disaster evacuees.

Airbnb Inc. is an internet-based service that connects those looking for lodging to hosts letting rooms in private homes or empty apartments.

Earthquake survivors looking for a place to stay can head to and click on the "I need a place to stay" button on the left of the page. Those willing to provide free accommodation to evacuees can click on the "I can offer my space for free" button on the right to register or offer their property. Both buttons direct to a page to enter further details.

Those who were affected by the disaster may utilize the free accommodation service for check-ins from now until April 20. The program may be extended depending on the extent of the earthquake damage.

When recruitment for the program first began at 3:00 p.m. on April 15, there were a total of 28 hosts. Around 18 hours later, at 9:00 a.m. on April 16, the number of hosts had risen to 66. At around 10:00 a.m., a designer apartment building in the city of Fukuoka and a stand-alone home in the city of Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, had been registered for the service, with potential guests able to see the interior of the rooms and the number of beds, among other information.

Airbnb was founded in the United States in 2008, and was launched in Japan in 2014. According to Airbnb Japan, around 1,400 hosts in New York offered free rooms to guests after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012.

A company public relations representative commented, "This is the first time (such an effort) has been launched in Japan. We hope that people will learn about it and decide to get involved -- even those in other prefectures."

Beginning this month, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare relaxed regulations under the Hotel Business Act, and have begun to allow paid accommodation in private residences -- so-called "minpaku" -- by recognizing it as a budget lodging system, and eliminating the requirement of having front desks.

The ministry has also advised prefectures and special wards to revise their accommodation ordinances accordingly.

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