Red Tape Hinders Relief Efforts in Japan

      March 22, 2011 12:23

      Japanese shipping giant NYK has made a 20,000-ton ship available from which helicopters can take off and land for earthquake relief efforts. The idea was to send the ship to earthquake-hit areas where roads were cut off so that helicopters of Japan's Self-Defense Forces could deliver relief supplies to the displaced. But the Japanese government declined, citing the lack of training of the forces on NYK ships.

      It was only one example of what the Japanese media increasingly see as official inflexibility that hinders and delays the recovery process and supply of relief packages to earthquake and tsunami victims.


      Another example is some 100 broken cars that sit in the playground of Nobiro Elementary School in Higashimatsu, Miyagi Prefecture. The Self-Defense Forces wanted to use the school as the base for recovery efforts but are on the verge of giving up because under Japanese law, moving something without consent of the owner violates private ownership rights.

      Areas ravaged by the tsunami are filled with piled up cars and waste, but they cannot be freely removed due to the ownership issue, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports. Nagahisa Hirayama, a professor at Kyoto University, has argued for an emergency right to remove abandoned cars in the wake of a disaster, but so far nothing has been done.

      Another obstacle to relief efforts is a lack of human resources, which means huge amounts of supplies are still sitting in warehouses of regional administrative offices as there are not enough people to classify and distribute them. The reason is that officials are reluctant to make use of volunteers for fear that inexperienced volunteers could prove a hindrance rather than a help and they do not wish to be held responsible for their safety.

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