Sediment disaster alerts not in use

Sediment disaster alerts not in use

JAPAN - An interactive system for reporting information on sediment-related disasters, operated since fiscal 2000 with the goal of protecting people from disasters caused by typhoons and localized downpours, is nonfunctional in at least 15 prefectures, according to inspections by the Board of Audit.

The system is run by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. At least ¥5.7 billion (S$73 million) spent on the system in those prefectures has been wasted.

As anxieties over disasters caused by abnormal weather have been growing among residents in vulnerable areas, the board plans to request that the ministry ensure the system is usable in times of emergency.

According to the ministry, the system provides information stored by prefectural governments and the ministry, including rainfall and water levels, to residents by e-mail or other means via municipal governments. The ministry also can receive reports from residents on indicators of disasters through public address devices installed on utility poles and other places in areas designated as sediment-related disaster special warning areas.

The system was introduced in nationwide with the goal of sharing information between local governments and residents, for early evacuations when necessary, by two-way communication with residents, instead of one-sided information transmission from local governments to residents through emergency wireless communications.

However, random inspections in 21 prefectures found that the system does not work in at least 15 prefectures because local governments cannot provide information to residents due to poor maintenance and management of communication devices.

The Okinawa prefectural government has set up 44 communication devices on utility poles near the coast and areas prone to landslides in Naha for residents to report disaster-related information, but they cannot be used because the boxes housing the devices were locked.

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