Photo/IllutrationRelatives of people who were killed in the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake offer flowers for victims at a stand especially set up in the hardest-hit town of Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 13, on the eve of the third anniversary of the disaster. (Masaru Komiyaji)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KUMAMOTO--On the third anniversary of a powerful earthquake that jolted the city here and the surrounding region, inflicting extensive damage, about 16,500 people remain displaced from their homes in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The number of evacuees is less than 40 percent of the peak figure, about 47,800.

However, those aged 65 or older represent 34 percent of the households who are still evacuating in makeshift housing in the prefecture, making it financially difficult for them to settle in new homes.

The Kumamoto prefectural government plans to close temporary housing for quake victims by the end of March 2020.

But 460 households have been unable to secure new housing mainly due to financial reasons.

In the disaster that affected the prefecture and neighboring Oita Prefecture, an earthquake that registered 7 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7 struck on the evening of April 14, followed by another temblor of the same intensity only two days later.

According to the latest count, the total number of people killed directly or indirectly by the earthquakes rose to 273 in the two prefectures combined as six individuals were added over the past year after their deaths were deemed disaster-related.

The Kumamoto prefectural government held a memorial service for victims at the government building in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward on April 14.