Aug 2013


Shizuoka Flooding July 2013: Relief Activities Report

After a prolonged period of heavy rainfall in the latter half of July 2013, over 280 homes sustained damage from flooding in Nishi-Izucho, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Aside from Shizuoka, July brought about heavy rainfall across many different prefectures, which may explain why Shizuoka was not given quite as much attention as a disaster of this magnitude would usually receive.

PBV conducted emergency relief activities from 22nd July to 30th July, during which time 35 volunteers (totaling 108 work days) worked through sweltering temperatures to assist those affected. Our work involved both field and administrative tasks; some of our volunteers assisted the Social Welfare Council (or ‘shakkyo’) with running the volunteer reception center, whilst others assisted with the cleaning of homes and roads affected by the severe rain. The primary focus of our field work was the cleaning of damaged homes and temples within the “Arari” area, which was particularly hard hit. Many of the roads were rendered unusable after the storm and a significant portion of the clean-up work had to be completed manually as these areas could not easily be accessed by vehicles and were not suitable for heavy machinery.

Even though the call for volunteers was somewhat last-minute, many people offered their time and energy, including those who helped out after the Great East Japan Earthquake and graduates of our Leader Training Programme.

Having cleaned many homes in the area and assisted the overall coordination of volunteers, as well as strengthening ties with local community groups and organisations, our team disbanded on July 30th.

We believe that our Shizuoka relief operations were a success because of our emphasis on preparedness and training in non-disaster times. Investing in disaster preparedness helped us to mobilize skilled and experienced volunteer leaders effectively in disaster time.

This kind of disaster preparedness work includes our Leader Training Programme, which gives participants a strong grounding in disaster relief volunteerism. Our warehouse in Saitama which is stocked with essential supplies and generous donations from other organizations, such as the “Share Happiness Club”, were also crucial to our disaster response capacity.

This time, we were fortunate to have adequate personnel, funds and supplies to mobilize our volunteers to Shizuoka, where they made a significant impact on local relief activities.

Another crucial component of our Shizuoka activities was the fact that we had a strong, pre-existing network in the area. PBV had participated in a number of Shizuoka’s disaster relief exercises, which involved multiple stakeholders from different sectors. Shizuoka’s Social Welfare Council (or ‘shakkyo’) called upon PBV in the immediate aftermath of the disaster in Nishi-Izucho to request emergency assistance, which we were able to provide in the days following the severe weather conditions.

What became apparent through this disaster was the strength of the regional disaster relief network. Immediately following the storms, local organisations in the Arari area were able to mobilize and coordinate more than 100 student volunteers. Although disaster relief volunteerism is a relatively recent phenomenon in Japan (widely believed to have started after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, 1995) this kind of strong civil response gives us reason to be optimistic about disaster relief activities conducted by civil society groups in the future.

Even though our operations in Shizuoka ended on July 30th, heavy rainfall has affected many other areas across Japan in recent weeks.

As we wrap up one project, we commence another; this time, PBV will be heading south, to Yamaguchi and Shimane prefectures, where the team will be responding to more flooding and water damage.

On 1st August, 3 of PBV’s representatives have been dispatched to these areas in order to conduct an initial assessment and commence relief activities to help those affected.