Many coastal Tohoku municipalities hit by the March 11 disaster and others affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis are suffering from a severe shortage of civil engineers and other backup staff, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.
The survey, which targeted 42 municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, was conducted before Saturday, which marked 11 months since the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Thirty-three of the municipalities along the hard-hit coast or near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have called for outside help to meet the worker shortage, the survey found.
Even as disaster restoration work moves into high gear, 26 of the 33 municipalities are struggling to secure enough civil engineers and technicians.
An official at the Ishinomaki municipal government in Miyagi Prefecture said the city needed another 55 engineers.
“We’ve got a shortage of staff in every area of infrastructure maintenance, including collective relocation, land readjustment and port reconstruction projects,” the official said.
An official at the Sendai municipal office said, “We need as much manpower as possible for collective relocation projects that are about to get into full swing.”
The Otsuchi municipal government in Iwate Prefecture has called on the prefectural government to dispatch about 40 engineers, and also asked the Kobe municipal government to send officials who helped with reconstruction work after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Seven municipalities have asked to be sent nurses to help care for residents living in temporary housing units. Four municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture are seeking officials to oversee decontamination work.
According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, municipalities have requested more than 500 personnel for the new fiscal year that starts in April. However, the ministry said it can only find “slightly more than half” this number of people willing to fill these positions.
An official at the ministry said about 40 percent to 50 percent of personnel requested by the municipalities were for civil engineers and construction workers.
Civil engineers accounted for about half of 535 personnel that the three disaster-hit prefectures have asked the National Governors’ Association to dispatch.