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2014年2月20日 (木)

記録的大雪 教訓生かして被害を防ぎたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 19, 2014
Bitter lessons from heavy snow must be used to prevent future problems
記録的大雪 教訓生かして被害を防ぎたい(2月19日付・読売社説)

Record-setting heavy snowfalls have ravaged parts of eastern Japan for two consecutive weekends, causing immense damage to various locations, including the Kanto-Koshin and Tohoku regions. The death toll from the extraordinarily heavy snowfalls has risen to 20.

On Tuesday, the government set up an emergency disaster response headquarters to deal with the situation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed relevant government ministries and agencies to “unite efforts to defend people’s lives and property.”

Efforts must be made to rehabilitate the affected areas as quickly as possible. It is also essential that the state of the snow damage be thoroughly studied, with findings used to better cope with similar disasters in the future.

The latest heavy snowfalls were generated when an air mass called a southern shore low pressure system passed along the country’s Pacific shore. Due to this low pressure system, record snowfalls were reported in the Kanto region and elsewhere.

The snowfalls disrupted traffic on the expressway system, a main artery for the distribution of goods. This has left a number of supermarkets and convenience stores with bare shelves while also forcing many factories into temporary shutdowns as a result of necessary parts not being delivered.

Devastation caused by the snowfalls seems to show that even areas with scant experience in coping with snowfall must think about how to act in the event of such a natural disaster.

The latest snowfalls left a large number of local communities cut off from neighboring areas, with their roads buried in snow. No one seems to have anticipated this could happen. A task facing the relevant authorities is to think about how to avert such a situation if another heavy snowfall strikes in the future.

We do not find it realistic for local governments to spend a great deal of money buying snow-shoveling and melting equipment if heavy snow is extremely unusual in their areas.

What, then, is the most efficient measure to minimize any damage inflicted on a given community if it heavily snows? It is important to study measures in a manner that properly reflects the realities of each local government.

Tie-up with SDF important

Self-Defense Forces personnel were sent to various snow-affected areas, where they worked to aid local residents in overcoming the situation. Efforts must be made to shore up the system for establishing communication between prefectural governments and the SDF so the former can ask the latter to dispatch personnel in the future, as required during extreme circumstances.

It will also be necessary for each local government to designate locations as areas prone to possible isolation due to heavy snow, a task that requires arranging a means of transporting people and supplies by helicopter, or through other equipment.

Traffic congestion along arterial highways contributed to the turmoil arising from the recent snowfalls. A number of skidding accidents were reported on the Tomei Expressway, leaving vehicles stranded for more than 40 kilometers.

Traffic restrictions came too late, as evidenced by the fact the expressway had not been closed to traffic until a major traffic jam erupted there. There were long delays in restoring traffic on the highway even after it stopped snowing, as it took a good deal of time to remove stranded vehicles there.

Alarmed by the latest confusion, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ota said his ministry will reexamine the current system for imposing traffic controls, adding that highways will be closed at an early stage of traffic congestion due to a heavy snowfall while, at the same time, intensively working to remove the snow from such roads in that event.

We hope the government will properly consider measures to rectify the status quo, including discussions on the pros and cons of removing cars stalled and deserted on highways without the consent of their owners.

The latest turmoil on the expressway network was marked by a large number of accidents involving vehicles with ordinary tires, meaning they did not use snow tires or tire chains. We feel their drivers may have failed to carry out precautions against heavy snowfall.

Everyone should be advised not to drive out if a weather forecast warns of heavy snow. They also should take all possible precautions if they drive despite hearing such a forecast. It is important for each and every driver to exercise extreme caution if heavy snow is imminent.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2014)
(2014年2月19日01時39分  読売新聞)


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