The Nippon Foundation Awarded for Helping Kumamoto Prefecture Recover from Earthquakes, Floods [2021/12/07]
At a ceremony on November 4, 2021, I receive on behalf of The Nippon Foundation a special distinguished service award certificate from Governor Ikuo Kabashima (right) of Kumamoto Prefecture for our contribution to the prefecture’s recovery from strong earthquakes and massive floods.
I was honored to accept on behalf of The Nippon Foundation a special distinguished service award conferred on us by Kumamoto Prefecture for our contribution to the southwestern Japanese prefecture’s recovery from a series of strong earthquakes in 2016 and the massive floods and landslides caused by torrential rains last year.
For many years, the foundation has supported disaster response and recovery operations in different parts of the country, including following the 1995 Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. But this was the first time that it has been bestowed with such a distinguished award by a prefectural government.
At a ceremony held on November 4 in the prefectural government building, I received the award certificate from Governor Ikuo Kabashima.
The governor expressed his deep appreciation for the foundation’s quick and sizable assistance. He noted it was only three days after the main shock hit the prefecture on April 16, 2016 that I announced the foundation’s support amounting to over 9.3 billion yen (about $79.3 million). “Your quick and very reassuring message greatly encouraged citizens of the prefecture to work for reconstruction of the affected areas,” he stated.
The foundation’s emergency relief included installing temporary toilets at evacuation centers, support for activities by NGOs and volunteer organizations, and payment of consolation and condolence monies to families with damaged homes or with missing or dead loved ones.
As long-term assistance, we provided the prefecture 3 billion yen (about $26.5 million) to repair the severely damaged Kumamoto Castle, a regional symbol and source of pride for Kumamoto residents. In all, the foundation’s support for Kumamoto’s recovery totaled 12.7 billion yen (about $112.4 million).
But in July last year, when the earthquake recovery efforts were on track, the prefecture was hit by another calamity−massive floods and landslides unleashed by torrential rains.
Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, volunteers were not allowed to come to Kumamoto from outside prefectures, resulting in an acute lack of rescue and recovery workers.
At the governor’s request, The Nippon Foundation dispatched a team of personnel with specialist skills and expertise, including people licensed to operate heavy equipment, to conduct cleanup and recovery operations in flood-ravaged areas. They had all undergone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the novel coronavirus at the foundation’s expense.
In my remarks at the ceremony, I thanked the governor and officials as well as citizens of the prefecture for the special honor given to the foundation.
I told them that Kumamoto’s recovery from first earthquakes and then floods in about five years had been remarkable. Under the outstanding leadership of Governor Kabashima, Kumamoto citizens demonstrated solidarity in working toward a future-oriented prefecture, I said, adding I am confident this could be a model case for rebuilding a community hit by a major disaster.
Natural disasters should be dealt with by the central and local governments, which provide “public help” and by citizens in the form of “self-help,” I said. But if that’s not enough, it becomes important to make better use of “mutual help” offered by the private sector, including The Nippon Foundation.
After the ceremony, Governor Kabashima gave me a tour of Kumamoto Castle, briefing me on every stage of the five-year repair project.
On November 5, I went to Kumamoto City Hall to receive from Mayor Kazufumi Onishi a certificate of appreciation for The Nippon Foundation’s support for the city’s disaster response and recovery operations since 2016.
Before returning to Tokyo, I visited the Shin (New)-Aso Bridge, which was completed in March this year to replace the Great Aso Bridge that collapsed due to the main quake on April 16, 2016.
We are joined by Kumamon, a beloved mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, at the ceremony on November 4, 2021.
Responding to reporters’ questions after the ceremony.
Accompanied by Governor Ikuo Kabashima of Kumamoto Prefecture, I visit Kumamoto Castle that was restored in April 2021 or five years after it was heavily damaged by the 2016 earthquakes.
With Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Onishi (left) on November 5, 2021, to receive a certificate of appreciation for The Nippon Foundation’s contribution to the city’s recovery from the earthquakes and floods.
On November 5, 2021, I visit the Shin (New)-Aso Bridge which was completed in March this year in place of the Great Aso Bridge that collapsed in the main shock of the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes.