TOKYO: Japan plans to double a fund used for disaster relief and other contingencies to US$6.8 billion after a devastating New Year’s Day earthquake, the government said Tuesday (Jan 16), as snow worsened conditions for survivors.
The 7.5-magnitude quake and powerful aftershocks killed at least 222 people in central Japan, laying waste to houses and infrastructure.
In the Ishikawa region on the Sea of Japan coast, about 16,700 people were still stuck in limbo in shelters, many without running water.
“Uninterrupted support is necessary for the reconstruction and recovery of the disaster-hit areas,” Hiroshi Moriya, deputy chief cabinet secretary, told reporters.
In the fiscal year from April, the government will raise its reserve fund – used for emergencies from disasters to economic downturns – from ¥500 billion (US$3.4 billion) to ¥1 trillion (US$6.8 billion), he said.
The revised draft budget is expected to be approved by ministers later Tuesday and will then be submitted to parliament for enactment.
Separately, around ¥100 billion (US$680 million) from the current fiscal year’s reserve fund was set to be earmarked for a relief package for the New Year’s Day quake, he added.
Fears are rising of further deaths due to worsening health conditions in shelters as a cold front blankets the coast in snow.
TV footage showed a long line of evacuees with heavy coats and umbrellas waiting for food rations, while others sifted through donated winter clothing.