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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 January 31 - February 6  > Housing for elderly destroyed in fire
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2018 January 31 - February 6 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Housing for elderly destroyed in fire

February 2, 3 & 7, 2018
An apartment house for pensioners on welfare in Sapporo City in Hokkaido was completely destroyed by fire on January 31, killing eleven residents. Most of the 16 residents were elderly and 13 of them were welfare recipients.

An organization supporting the homeless and the needy operated this house. The building was over 50 years old and had no fire-prevention equipment such as a sprinkler system or fireproof doors. The support group did not install heating in the house as it costs too much, and placed a kerosene heater in each room.

Portable stoves are inexpensive but vulnerable to causing fires. Many organizations providing assistance to elderly poor cannot install necessary fire prevention systems due to their limited funds.

Inaba Tsuyoshi who engages in assistance activities for the poor in Tokyo said, "What private facilities can do is limited. It is public assistance that should be drastically improved. The government should build more public housing and nursing-care homes for the elderly."

The day following the fire, Japanese Communist Party members of the Sapporo City Assembly went to the scene to mourn the victims. The JCP assemblypersons' group said it will propose to the city government that it fulfill its public role to instruct all facilities to abide by the Fire Services Act. The JCP group also said that it will urge the city assembly to demand that the state government take financial measures to cover expenses needed for the installation of fire prevention systems.

JCP Hokkaido assemblyperson demands substantial expansion of welfare programs

Sano Hiromi, a Japanese Communist Party member of the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly, at an assembly committee meeting on health and welfare on February 6 pointed to the responsibility of the prefectural administration for the fatal fire and demanded a massive expansion of poverty-alleviation programs and fire-prevention measures.

She also demanded that the prefectural government conduct a fact-finding survey on private welfare residences.

Sano said, "Most private support groups, despite having few financial resources, are committed to housing people who have nowhere else to live," and criticized the irresponsible state of administrative affairs by saying, "The prefectural government leaves the living conditions in such accommodations unprepared and thus vulnerable to disasters and emergencies."

Sano pointed out that ineffective countermeasures against poverty have brought about the latest fatal fire, and said, "The Abe government's planned cutbacks in public assistance spending will force the needy into further destitution." She underlined the need for a drastic improvement in the public livelihood protection system.

Past related article:
> Welfare cuts lead to fatal fire accident in Kawasaki [May 24, 2015]
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