Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed Finance Minister Taro Aso on Sunday to compile a supplementary budget for rebuilding areas seriously affected by the powerful earthquakes that have rocked the southwestern island of Kyushu.
The extra budget for fiscal 2016 is expected to amount to several hundreds of billion yen, a government source said. The country is likely to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance the emergency spending.
At a meeting of government officials shortly afterward, the prime minister unveiled plans to compile the budget and ensure that it will clear parliament during the current session through June 1.
The budget will go toward accommodating those who have evacuated from their homes and helping quake victims rebuild their lives.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary general of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, indicated the same day that he intends to seek cooperation from the opposition to ensure parliamentary passage by the Group of Seven leaders 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 with disaster victims as well as local officials.
“We must keep taking the initiative and responding even more flexibly” while attending to the needs of those affected by the quakes, Abe said at the meeting with government officials.
He also indicated that the extra budget will allocate money to help disaster victims rebuild their businesses and to clear debris from the quakes.
Taro Kono, minister in charge of disaster management, said Sunday afternoon the Cabinet will move on Monday to designate the disaster as one of “extreme severity,” allowing affected communities to receive higher subsidies from the central government.
As of Sunday morning, a total of 48 people have died as a result of the quakes and 1,350 have suffered injuries, according to official figures.
A further 11 people are believed to have died from medical issues triggered by stress and fatigue after being displaced by the quakes. Tens of thousands of people remain evacuated from their homes, staying in temporary shelters and other makeshift accommodation.
A total of 865 temblors measuring at least 1 on the Japanese seismic scale have hit the area since shaking began on April 14, the Japan Meteorological Agency said just after 3 p.m. Sunday.
These included the magnitude 6.5 quake on April 14 and a M7.3 quake in the early hours of April 16.
Kyushu Railway Co said Sunday it has finished removing an out-of-service shinkansen bullet train derailed by the quakes from tracks between Kumamoto and Shin-Minamata stations.
Having cleared the six-car train, JR Kyushu will aim to restore service on the entire Kyushu Shinkansen Line by Thursday in time for the “Golden Week” public holiday period to follow.
JR Kyushu began removing the stricken cars on Monday last week.
Also Sunday, transport minister Keiichi Ishii said vehicles will be able to access all sections of the Kyushu Expressway by the end of this month. A 56-kilometer section of the expressway in Kumamoto remains closed to traffic due to the quakes.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani flew to Kumamoto Prefecture on Sunday to check on the Self-Defense Forces’ relief efforts and encourage officers.
Nakatani is expected to survey damage in the hardest-hit areas in a Ground Self-Defense Force helicopter, and visit sites of SDF activity in the town of Mashiki and village of Minamiaso.
The U.S. military in Japan said it ended its airlifting of supplies to quake-hit areas Sunday, but will remain prepared to provide further assistance if requested by the Japanese government.
U.S. aircraft flew a total of 20 missions delivering over 104 metric tons of supplies and transporting SDF personnel. The Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was used for disaster relief in the country for the first time.
“This noble work highlighted our alliance and our friendship with Japan,” said Lt Gen John Dolan, commander of U.S. forces in Japan.