APR. 28, 2016 – 03:36PM JST
More than 1,000 seismic events had been recorded in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures by Thursday in the two weeks since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck southwestern Japan, while over 30,000 people remain evacuated from their homes.
The frequency of the seismic events, ranging from minor jolts to the M7.3 quake that occurred two days after the initial April 14 quake, is unusually high as the nation’s total last year was 1,842, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, urging people to stay alert for more earthquakes.
Major transportation lines were rapidly recovering in the region, with bullet train services on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line resuming on all tracks the day before and the Kyushu Expressway expected to fully open Friday.
But repairs to smaller roads have lagged behind, with rocks, trees and debris from buildings severing routes in at least 295 locations.
Debris and waste generated by the earthquakes have spilled onto the streets in parts of Kumamoto city, with public garbage collection services hard-pressed to cope, prompting the Self-Defense Forces to begin hauling waste outside the city Thursday.
At least 30,000 people were still sheltering at evacuation centers in Kumamoto Prefecture. The prefectural government has decided to secure some 4,200 temporary housing units, half through construction and the other half by renting, using a supplementary budget of 36.6 billion yen for fiscal 2016.
While the earthquakes alone have killed 49 people, the prolonged evacuation has also taken a toll, with 16 people suspected to have died as of Wednesday due to illness caused by stress and fatigue and other quake-related causes.
Nearly 100 people have been diagnosed with or suspected to have so-called economy class syndrome, caused by prolonged inactivity, according to a Kyodo News survey.
The central government adopted on Thursday an ordinance for extending deadlines for some administrative procedures, including updating of driving licenses.
Among the more than 200 special measures expected to be launched based on the ordinance is one to freeze bankruptcy procedures for companies that went bust due to the earthquakes for a maximum of two years in an effort to prevent chain-reaction bankruptcies.
Ministers plan to visit the quake-hit areas in the coming days to view the damage and help speed up recovery.
Transport minister Keiichi Ishii said Thursday he will visit affected areas Friday and Saturday to inspect damage to local infrastructure and exchange opinions with Kumamoto Gov Ikuo Kabashima.
Culture minister Hiroshi Hase will on Sunday visit the city of Kumamoto, home to Kumamoto Castle, a major tourist attraction that has suffered severe damage through the repeated quakes.
Internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi will also visit affected areas in Kumamoto Prefecture on Monday and hold talks with the Kumamoto governor and Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Onishi.