“Priorities” is the word residents of Japan may be uttering today after reports that officials reportedly spent a majority of the 200 billion set aside for 2011 tsunami relief efforts not on rebuilding their cities but on sea turtle research.
The prefecture Kagoshima, located roughly 800 miles from the affected zone of Ishinomaki, was awarded 3 million yen after the devastating 2011 storm, according to a new report claiming the donated funds were reportedly spent in an effort for researchers to observe and protect sea turtles, the Telegraph via the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports.
“We only counted sea turtles and were not required to move eggs to safe places or do other things,” said one of the 10 employees who was employed to count the sea creatures should they arrive onshore with onlookers at bay. “It wasn’t even for sea turtles, let alone those hit by the disaster," the worker said.
The report claims that 97 percent of the 200 billion yen in relief funds was spent on employing those outside of the primary affected zone. The welfare ministry defended its choice of spending, saying its methods of distribution were within “good reason” and that those hit by the tsunami were “widely spread across the nation at that time.”
ABC News reports that other projects funded by the relief funds included the production of a restaurant guidebook for central Japan residents, pamphlets encouraging safe Internet and cell phone usage, and pamphlets promoting local song and dance troops in the prefecture of Tottori.
Officials claim they’re researching the matter after reports of government spending surfaced. “After seeing the results, we will take firm measures with a view to stricter rules on use,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary and government spokesman Yoshihide Suga.
The relief funds stem from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Honshu, Japan, and tsuanmi in March of 2011 after it killed more than 18,000 individuals and created more than $200 billion in damage.