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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Money not reaching victims of Japan earthquake


    TOKYO — Only a tiny fraction of the money donated to help survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake has made it into the hands of disaster victims nearly two months since the devastation of March 11.

    The Japanese Red Cross Society and other entities have sent about 58 billion yen (about $715 million) in initial payments to Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. But less than 10 percent of this amount has actually reached disaster victims, according to investigations by The Yomiuri Shimbun. The standstill has been attributed to lack of staff at local governments as well as difficulty in identifying recipients and informing them the donations are available.

    A committee established to distribute donations — consisting of four organizations that have been accepting cash donations, including the Red Cross and the Central Community Chest of Japan, and 15 disaster-affected prefectural governments — decided on April 8 that families would receive 350,000 yen (about $4,300) for each member who was killed or is still missing. The committee also decided to distribute 350,000 yen to households whose residences were destroyed and 180,000 yen (about $2,200) to households whose houses were severely damaged.

    About 23.8 billion yen (about $294 million) was distributed to Miyagi Prefecture, but hardly any earthquake survivors have received the money.

    In Minami-Sanrikucho in the prefecture, one-seventh of the staff at the town office is either dead or missing. In addition to difficulty determining who should be paid because the town’s family register was washed away in the tsunami, the town government does not know how many residents have evacuated to places outside the town, according to a town official. Officials are at a loss, with one saying, “”There’s so much work that needs to be done first, so we can’t spend time on the relief money.””

    About 10.1 billion yen (about $125 million) was distributed to Iwate Prefecture, but only five out of 23 eligible municipal governments have started accepting applications for relief money. Only Nodamura has issued payments, disbursing 140.02 million yen (about $1.73 million) to 259 people, which included additional funds from the prefecture and the village. No other local government had made any relief payments.

    Besides shortages of staff and computers at local governments, many victims have lost their bankbooks and automatic teller machine cards, making it difficult to transfer payments. Reissuing ATM cards and bankbooks can take time.

    In Fukushima Prefecture, each household within 30 kilometers of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will receive 350,000 yen, regardless of the damage to their homes.

    According to the prefectural government, it has received about 24.4 billion yen (about $302 million) from the Red Cross and about 1.6 billion yen (about $19.8 million) has been distributed.

    Tomiokamachi, which has moved its town office to Koriyama, has delivered 1.16 billion yen ($14.3 million) to about 3,300 households out of the 6,421 eligible. But delays have been encountered in confirming the whereabouts of about one-third of the eligible households, according to the town government. “”We have no idea when the money will reach all the households,”” a town official said.

    Officials of other local governments agreed that delays in making the payments had been caused by difficulty in tracking down residents.

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