2024年2月6日火曜日

VOLUNTEERS ARRIVE - AIRLINE RESUMES FLIGHTS TO QUAKE-HIT AIRPORT IN ISHIKAWA

VOLUNTEERS ARRIVE - AIRLINE RESUMES FLIGHTS TO QUAKE-HIT AIRPORT IN ISHIKAWA

@Jackie San


All Nippon Airways resumed its flights to and from an airport in Ishikawa Prefecture on Saturday, almost a month after a magnitude-7.6 earthquake hit the region on New Year's Day and left its runway damaged.


While regular flights connecting Noto airport in Wajima, and Tokyo's Haneda airport are limited to one round-trip per day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through February, it is hoped they will help bring volunteer workers to the quake-hit area to assist in recovery from the disaster, which left more than 230 dead.


Before the quake struck the Noto Peninsula on the Sea of Japan coast, there were two round-trip flights between the two airports each day. But the airport was forced to suspend services after a gap measuring 10 centimeters in depth and 10 meters in length was found on a runway following the quake.


After temporary repairs were made, the airport started accepting Self-Defense Forces aircraft on Jan. 11 and decided to widen the service to commercial flights as it completed full restoration work.


A 40-year-old woman living in quake-hit Suzu on the peninsula was among 62 passengers aboard a flight that departed for the region from Haneda earlier in the morning. She was visiting her hometown in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo with her two children when the earthquake struck and has been unable to return until now, she said.


"My car is parked at Noto airport so I was waiting" for flights to resume, she said. "The house was built recently, so I don't think it has collapsed, but we will have to clean up the inside."


Passengers were handed two-liter bottles of water by cabin crew as they boarded the plane. While greeting passengers after takeoff, the plane's captain said, "Please take great care in the area."


Among them were some of the 75 registered volunteer workers who entered Ishikawa Prefecture Saturday to join cleanup efforts.


Partly because landslides and cracks had severed roads leading to the quake-hit area, local governments were not ready to accept such volunteers until now, with prefectural authorities saying more than 15,000 people have registered from across Japan as of Saturday.


So far, over 43,000 homes have been damaged by the quake and around 230 people have been confirmed dead, the prefecture said.


Among the fatalities, nearly 90 percent of the 129 people whose names were released were found to be victims of collapsed houses, many of whom appear to have died from crushing or suffocation.


Some quake-hit areas with a high proportion of elderly residents have a large number of old wooden houses, suggesting seismic reinforcement work was hindered by financial constraints.


As the Ishikawa prefectural government had been asking individuals to refrain from coming to the quake-hit area, those eligible for volunteer work had previously been limited to people who belonged to organizations with disaster relief knowledge and experience.


Among the newly arrived volunteers was Shuto Kaji, a 30-year-old office worker from western Tokyo, who has been visiting Nanao in Ishikawa Prefecture once or twice a year for the past seven years to teach tennis to local children


"This is my first time volunteering for disaster recovery, but I hope I can be of a little help to Nanao," he said.


Volunteers worked in pairs to remove water-damaged tatami mats and other debris from homes affected by the disaster. "I can only be grateful," said local resident Kenichi Kawamura, 55, after receiving assistance.


At a ceremony prior to embarking on their activities, Ishikawa Gov. Hiroshi Hase addressed participants who had gathered wearing blue vests emblazoned with the words "Ishikawa Prefecture volunteer."


"I thank you for your warm sentiments. I hope you will take good care of yourselves as well," Hase said.

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@Jackie San

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