Abe orders extra funding to rebuild quake-hit areas

Tokyo, April 24 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday instructed Finance Minister Taro Aso to compile a supplementary budget for rebuilding areas seriously affected by the powerful earthquakes that have rocked the southwestern island of Kyushu.

Abe unveiled plans to compile the budget in a meeting, and ensured that it will clear the National Diet during the current session through June 1.

The budget will go toward accommodating those who have been evacuated from their homes and for helping quake victims rebuild their lives, the Japan Times reported.

Liberal Democratic Party secretary-general Sadakazu Tanigaki indicated that he intends to seek cooperation from the opposition to ensure the funding’s passage by the G7 summit to be held in Japan on May 26 and 27.

Abe’s budget instruction came one day after he surveyed quake-stricken areas in Kumamoto prefecture and met disaster victims.

“We must keep taking the initiative and responding even more flexibly,” Abe said in a meeting with government officials.

While visiting the disaster-hit area on Saturday, Abe said the government plans to designate the Kumamoto quakes as a disaster of extreme severity eligible for special assistance.

If the quakes are designated as a disaster of extreme severity, the government will provide special assistance, such as larger subsidies for restoration work than for disasters without such designation.

“I saw the havoc wrecked by the quakes and realised the enormous damage. It was painful,” Abe said.

The government plans to tap reserves set aside under the fiscal 2016 budget to help the municipalities, the sources said.

On Sunday, the US military in Japan said it was ending its airlift operations supporting the relief effort.

“Over the past week, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were able to deliver more than 230,000 pounds of relief supplies to Japanese forces operating in remote areas of the quake zone,” said Lt. Gen. John Dolan, commander of US Forces in Japan.

“As the recovery progressed and repairs were made to the area’s infrastructure, the need for rapid airlift of supplies by US MV-22s and C-130 aircraft has diminished.”

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