Rebuilding Japan's disaster-hit towns may take a decade

Updated: 2011-04-26 16:30
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TOKYO - The reconstruction of Japanese towns and cities devastated by a deadly earthquake and tsunami last month could take a decade, an advisory panel to the government said on Tuesday.

"The first three years would be needed for tasks like rebuilding roads and constructing temporary housing," said Jun Iio of Japan's Reconstruction Design Council, formed after the quake to advise the government's rebuilding efforts.

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Iio, a political scientist, told reporters that another four years may be necessary to rebuild towns, and it could take even longer to achieve full recovery.

"We have to bear in mind that the area afflicted by the disaster is much larger than Kobe," Iio said, referring to the Japanese city ravaged by a powerful earthquake in 1995.

The council said the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left a large swathe of Japan's northeast in ruins, killed at least 13,000, forced about 130,000 into shelters and is estimated to have caused $300 billion worth of damage, illustrated the shortcomings of centralised government, and called for greater regional autonomy.

The council also said reconstruction must transcend political divisions in a country where a fragile political truce inspired by the disaster has already collapsed.

"Reconstruction efforts go beyond political issues. We can invite opinion from opposition parties as well as the ruling party," said Makoto Iokibe, chairman of the council and also the president of Japan's National Defense Academy.

On Friday, Japan's cabinet approved almost $50 billion of spending for post-earthquake rebuilding.

The next packages are likely to involve a mix of taxes as well as borrowing in the bond market, which could strain Japan's debt-laden economy.