Criticism of Quake Response Rises in Japan; 3,100 Dead : Disaster: More than 800 people remain missing and 240,000 are homeless. Officials decry government tardiness in Kobe, which has little food and no water, gas, electricity.
Hundreds of thousands of survivors of an earthquake that killed more than 3,100 people in and around the western port city of Kobe entered their third day today with no water, gas or electricity, and frustration mounted as no clear outlook emerged for a return to normalcy.
Even food was in short supply as an estimated 240,000 people spent another night in cars, parks, public halls and schools. Still missing and presumed trapped in debris were 879 people, police said.
Earlier, when police were still announcing a larger number of missing persons, Mayor Hidenobu Takahide of Yokohama asked angrily at a news conference: “Why have nearly a thousand people still not been rescued?”
Takahide criticized the central government for failing to issue instructions to all local governments to offer help to Kobe and neighboring cities. Yokohama, he said, took such an initiative on its own.
He called the government’s response to the quake--especially in dispatching soldiers to the disaster area--"hopelessly tardy.”
After inspecting the disaster area, former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, who heads the opposition New Frontier Party, also criticized the government for slowness in calling out troops and in delivering relief goods.
Only today did Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama leave Tokyo to visit the disaster area.
Residents of Kobe and neighboring cities, scooping up water from broken mains in the streets and waiting in long lines for morsels of food, complained to TV interviewers that no one was providing guidance or information.
A woman told NHK television that some people had “to go to designated relief centers to get food and water and information. But the centers are packed, and no one is giving directions. We’re only one step from panic.”
“What have I been paying taxes for?” asked another woman standing in the middle of a school gymnasium filled with mattresses, where hundreds of families had spent the night. She complained that Self Defense Force soldiers had failed even to provide temporary toilets at the relief center.
At scenes of dramatic rescues from rubble caused by the quake, which struck at 5:46 a.m. Tuesday, others pleaded for more help to save those buried nearby.
“When the rescue efforts end, severe criticism of the government will arise,” Minoru Morita, a respected political commentator, told The Times.
He said “strong distrust” of the government was developing because of its “great delay” in acting to deal with Japan’s deadliest earthquake since 1948.
Police put the death toll at 3,130, with 16,202 others injured. More than 21,600 buildings and homes are known to have been destroyed or severely damaged.
“Forty-eight hours have passed, and there’s still no water or food,” Morita said.
Osaka prefecture Gov. Kazuo Nakagawa complained about the attitude of the quake victims, not the government, according to Kyodo News Agency.
"(Survivors) should cook food for themselves, but they lack the will to do so. They all think they can be helped by others,” Nakagawa was quoted as saying.
Traditionally, Japanese have turned to the government for protection of their livelihoods, assurances about the safety of the products they buy and help in natural disasters.
Despite full-time TV coverage that began an hour after the quake hit, a request for help from Self Defense Force troops was not made until five hours after disaster had struck. Only 2,300 troops were dispatched to needy areas the first day. Although the Defense Agency said it hoped to raise that number to 13,000 the second day, 6,000 soldiers had made it to the disaster region by Wednesday night.
“The government failed to grasp the seriousness of this crisis,” Morita said.
More than 30 hours after the quake, Murayama issued orders for “full efforts” to rescue trapped victims.
Later, his chief Cabinet secretary, Kozo Igarashi, appealed to civilian drivers to stay out of Kobe to permit rescue vehicles to enter the city.
Disabled expressways contributed to traffic snarls that delayed rescue efforts. But not until Wednesday night did the Transportation Ministry ban all non-emergency vehicles from a major expressway between Kyoto and Osaka and reserve it for disaster help bound for Kobe and environs.
“Ambulances refuse to respond to calls to take patients with broken bones to hospitals, because such patients are not in danger of losing their lives,” Dr. Kunio Shimono told NHK television at a temporary clinic in Kobe City Hall.
“This morning we ran out of medicine. Although we sent a Cessna (airplane) to Okayama to pick up medicine, a vehicle trying to bring it to us from the airport couldn’t get here through the traffic,” he complained.
Water supplies were cut for all but a small portion of Kobe’s 1.5 million people, as well as for many residents of seven other cities. No prediction was offered for when repairs might be completed.
NHK reported that about half the designated relief centers in the disaster area had not yet received any emergency water supplies.
Households without gas numbered 849,500; those without electricity, 200,000. Recovery is promised within a few weeks for electricity. But at least a month and a half is expected before full supplies of gas can be restored.
Many banks, which suffered breakdowns in their computer systems, remained closed, with cash-dispensing machines out of operation.
Telephone service was disrupted throughout the disaster region--partly by breaks in lines to individual homes and partly by an overload of all working phone lines.
As the numbers of the homeless and those afraid to stay home continued to grow, Kobe officials announced that all municipal elementary, junior high and high schools would be closed and turned into relief shelters through Saturday.
About 2,000 people bedded down at one elementary school that turned not only its gymnasium but also its 34 classrooms into temporary sleeping quarters.
Kobe authorities and officials of the Construction Ministry in Tokyo announced plans to build prefabricated, temporary homes in city parks and to allow homeless survivors to rent unoccupied units in public-housing apartment complexes.
Reconstruction of elevated expressways and railways is expected to take from several months for less-damaged routes to as long as two years for the most severely mangled, according to authorities quoted in the Japanese media.
The 130-m.p.h. Tokyo-Fukuoka Bullet Line, crippled for the first time in its 31-year history, will be restored within three months, officials of the West Japan Railroad Co. said. Only half the usual number of trains made runs between Tokyo and Kyoto on Wednesday. Service was unavailable to Osaka and Kobe.
Already, paralyzation of arterial expressways running through the Kobe area from Tokyo and Nagoya to Hiroshima and Fukuoka was beginning to take a toll on manufacturing.
The auto maker Mazda was forced to close its factories in Hiroshima and Hofu on Wednesday because parts could not be delivered. Toyota, which won a world reputation for its inventory-slashing “just-in-time” parts delivery system, said it will be forced to shut down all 28 of its factories for 24 hours starting tonight. Toyota also cited a shortfall in deliveries. And Honda motorcycle manufacturing operations were disrupted.
Progress toward recovery came in small steps.
Authorities on Rokko Island off Kobe lifted a warning Wednesday evening that they had issued in the morning to 75,000 residents to take refuge against a possible explosion of a leaking 20,000-ton liquid petroleum gas storage tank.
And fires that had leveled about 250 acres of homes and buildings in Kobe were finally burned out by Wednesday night. A new blaze, however--apparently caused by sparks from an electricity line to which power had just been restored--broke out and burned for six hours.
Four other fires broke out this morning in Kobe, including one in a downtown a shopping area. Firefighters were hampered in battling all of the blazes by disruptions in the water supply.
Although all of the volcanic Japanese archipelago is subject to earthquakes, the Kobe region has suffered fewer and smaller earthquakes than the more quake-prone northern part. Preparations for earthquakes that are common in Tokyo, such as annual drills and storage of canned food supplies, are not part of the Kobe area’s regimen.
Many of the homes that burned to the ground, leaving a landscape of bomb-like damage, were wooden structures built after World War II, when standards for milder earthquakes were applied to ordinary housing.
Expressways and steel-frame concrete buildings that met Japan’s toughest earthquake standards also were damaged and destroyed, however.
Both the Construction Ministry, in charge of highways, and the Transportation Ministry, with authority over railways, said they will review their standards.
Current standards were written after a 1971 San Francisco earthquake and were revised in 1980.
California Versus Japan
After damaging earthquakes in the United States, Japanese experts confidently predicted that roadways in Japan would stand up to even a serious quake. But sections of several major expressways collapsed.
Roadbeds: Overpasses are essentially hollow boxes made of steel-reinforced concrete.
Columns: Generally are built taller and narrower in California.
Interior support: Vertical rebar wrapped by circular steel provides strength within poured concrete.
Roadbeds: The reinforced roadbeds of most overpasses contain more steel and more concrete than in the United States. Some overpasses are as much as 80% steel by volume. The Japanese also build more all-steel overpasses.
Crossbeams: Used to stabilize the few tall overpasses. Generally, however, Japanese roadways are built lower to the ground and interchanges are less sweeping, which slows traffic.
Columns: Japanese support columns are as much as 50% wider.
Adding Support: Because many Japanese expressways are built in areas of soft soil, on artificial fill such as along Tokyo Bay, or on the sediment of riverbeds, the Japanese have developed techniques for keeping structures stable. These include making the structures more rigid, sinking piles deep into the ground and adding to the bulk of column footings.
Footings: Bases are enlarged and piling is driven deeper.
SOURCES: Caltrans; Hiroshi Mutsuyoshi, associate professor of construction engineering, Saltama University; Saltama; Japanese Consulate. Researched by RICHARD LEE COLVIN / Los Angeles Times