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Okinawa tourism agencies accept earthquake victims

Date Posted: 2004-11-18

Earthquake victims in central Japan will soon find themselves in a warmed climate as frigid winter descends on their homes.

Okinawa tourism agencies are working together to provide housing, in Okinawa, for displaced individuals and families whose homes crumbled under the massive October earthquake.

Niigata Prefecture is moving toward winter, and there are still thousands of families without places to stay. Tents will be a major problem as the snow begins flying. The victims cannot return home, because they’ve been severely damaged or destroyed. A return to normalcy is at least many months away.

Okinawa’s tourism groups, both prefectural and private, have joined with the Okinawa Tourism Convention Promotion Committee to establish a section geared to providing aid to the Chuuetsu earthquake victims.

The plan is to bring as many people as possible to Okinawa during the coldest period of winter coming up, housing them in cheap hotels, and in private homes. The project is now contacting hotels and minshuku, asking for both donated rooms and discount rates for support.

The Prefecture is asking its citizens to open their hearts, and their homes, to assist. “If you have room enough, please help them, support them,” tourism officials ask. “They are very worried about this winter season.” The Niigata Prefecture has the highest snowfall in Japan, with as much as 1.5 meters of snow accumulating on rooftops in a season. Often, houses collapse under the weight of the snow. This year, because of earthquake damage, fears are that there’ll be more homes destroyed by mother nature’s white winter blanket.

The Prefecture says “we need to think about who we are going to accept. We would like to first get the elderly people, over 70 years of age.” Government workers are asking for all citizens to reach out and get involved. They’re asking for rooms in homes first, but will accept cash donations to pay for putting people in minshuku or hotels.

Niigata Prefecture disaster team officials say they welcome the Okinawa gesture. When the people begin arriving will be determined by how rapidly the local populace responds to appeals, and money is available. The full goal is to have disaster victims on Okinawa by February.

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