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Asia Minute: Shelters and Radio for Quake Survivors in Japan

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Thousands of residents in southern Japan remain homeless—nearly three weeks after the region was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes. Local authorities are still working on improving refugee shelters, amid concerns that many families will be living there for some time. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Homeless people in Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture are still counted by the tens of thousands.  The Yomiuri Shimbun reports more than 20,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged by last month’s quakes.  Some emergency shelters are being prepared for longer stays.  Officials are starting with 18 of them—separating space into partitions for families…adding tatami sleeping mats and shared refrigerators.

In Kumamoto City nearly 200 shelters are set up in spaces everywhere from schools and auditoriums to prisons.  A few schools have re-opened…and more than a hundred more are scheduled to resume classes next Tuesday.  Jiji Press reports educators are offering psychological support to children…and to teachers.

Another support mechanism: local community radio.  The Asahi Shimbun reports Kumamoto City FM has extended its programming---including responding to email.  Before the quake, the station received fewer than 20 emails a day….now it averages about 400.

The station lost power during the initial quake, but was back on the air within 20 minutes…and has stayed on throughout additional quakes and aftershocks.  The radio station has also changed its practice of airing remote recorded programming for much of the day.  It’s now fully locally staffed….and on the air live 24 hours a day.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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