Photo/IllutrationVolunteers make sandbags in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, on June 23 to use them as an interim repair measure for damaged roofs. (Chiaki Ogihara)

  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA--More than 500 volunteers visited areas in and around northern Osaka Prefecture on June 23 to lend their expertise, following a powerful earthquake that struck the region earlier in the week.

Many were local government employees from prefectures such as Kumamoto, Miyagi and Hyogo, which had suffered serious damage from earthquakes or tsunami in the recent decades.

Some had come to Osaka before the start of the weekend and were offering advice based on their experiences to local government employees.

Four employees of the Kumamoto city government worked for three days from June 21 in Takatsuki in northern Osaka Prefecture where the June 18 temblor marked a lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7.

“We can’t grasp the extent of the damage unless we walk (and look into damaged areas) in detail. This is characteristic of this earthquake,” said Hiromasa Seno, 58, head of the tax system section of the Kumamoto city government.

According to Seno, in the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, damage was easily recognizable in mountainous areas as the shapes and ages of houses were similar in many cases and damage was concentrated in certain areas.

In Takatsuki, an urban area, old houses are standing next to new ones or high-rise buildings. Therefore, even if some houses were not damaged, those next to them could have been damaged.

Because of that, it could take time to grasp the entire scope of the damage, he said. In the June 18 earthquake, more than 5,500 houses were damaged in total.

Seiji Haraguchi, 52, head of the reconstruction office of the Kumamoto city government, pointed out the difference between rural and urban areas in the need for necessities for evacuees.

He saw that many goods, including instant rice, were not used in the evacuation centers.

“In urban areas, there are many convenience stores, and food became available there immediately (after the earthquake). What evacuees seek differs in urban areas where there are many stores,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hatsumi Ohisa, 61, an employee of the Natori city government of Miyagi Prefecture, has been taking care of evacuees in an evacuation center in Takatsuki along with local government officials since June 22.

He was one of the four Natori city government officials who came to Osaka to return the favor they had received during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

In the evacuation center, which was set up in the gymnasium of Gunge Elementary School, he urged evacuees to gargle and take other measures to maintain their health.

He did so as the health of some evacuees suffered and some even came down with pneumonia in evacuation centers at the time of the 2011 disaster.

Meanwhile, an official of the Hyogo prefectural government’s disaster preparedness division was sent to Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, to assist in the operation of evacuation centers.

“Mental health care will be necessary from now on to lessen the anxiety of residents,” the official said.