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Almost no progress on assisted evacuation plans for 2018 Japan rain disaster areas

In this July 8, 2018 file photo, an area of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, is seen flooded following torrential rains that struck wide areas of western Japan. (Mainichi/ Tadashi Kako)

OSAKA -- More than 80% of municipalities in three western Japan prefectures that saw high casualties in last summer's torrential rain disaster have since failed to update or review the way they implement assisted evacuation lists for residents that would have difficulty fleeing on their own, such as the elderly or people with disabilities, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown.

Of the 70 municipalities in Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime prefectures, which saw widespread flooding and landslides in the July 2018 weather disaster, only 20 responded that they had employed rosters of residents needing help evacuating. The record-breaking rain left 197 people dead in the three prefectures, about half of them aged 70 and over.

Every municipality in Japan is required to make up the lists under 2013 revisions to the Basic Act on Disaster Management. The revisions were implemented in response to the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns to prevent disproportionate numbers of society's weakest members from falling victim to disasters. Municipalities first request permission from vulnerable residents to be added to the assisted evacuation list, and then pass this to local district welfare officers or independent anti-disaster organizations which will provide evacuation guidance in times of emergency.

Among the 67 municipalities subject to evacuation orders or recommendations in July 2018, 12 did not employ assisted evacuation lists either because they had not sufficiently informed the public about them or had not yet distributed them. Thirty-five responded that they couldn't say whether they had used the lists fully due to information shortfalls or differences between districts. Three municipalities did not submit responses to the Mainichi questionnaire.

Meanwhile, just 11 local bodies said they have re-evaluated how the lists would be used, including what groups they were distributed to and speeding up that supply. Fifty-seven had not re-examined use of the rosters in the year since the rain emergency, though 23 of these reported that they planned to do so in the future.

A representative from the town of Saka, Hiroshima Prefecture, where 16 people were killed in the disaster, told the Mainichi, "We are not considering distributing (the assisted evacuation roster) to more organizations or other bodies than we do now due to personal information handling concerns."

The disaster management act revisions include guidelines calling for evacuation supporters to formulate specific plans for each person that requires assistance. Of the municipalities surveyed, seven replied that they had such plans for every resident needing help. Thirty-six stated that at least some had been prepared, and 25 had no individual assistance plans in place. Only one local body had progressed from "no plans" to "some plans" in the year since the disaster.

(Japanese original by Sachiko Miyakawa, Osaka City News Department, and Ryo Watanabe, Osaka Science & Environment News Department)

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