Top government spokesman Yukio Edano said at a news conference yesterday, ''The state would like to fully (take on the responsibility for such costs) without burdening the local governments,'' saying some municipalities are struggling financially in the aftermath of the disaster.
Earlier in the day, disaster management minister Ryu Matsumoto said on a TV program, ''Nearly all costs will come from state coffers,'' indicating the government will consider raising the legally allowable rate of expenses it can shoulder to help local municipalities remove the rubble from the current 97.5 percent.
Internal affairs minister Yoshihiro Katayama who appeared on another TV program also pledged the government will make all-out efforts to reduce the amount of money that municipalities have to pay to rebuild the communities to all but zero.
Katayama said the government will try to achieve the goal by taking such measures as increasing special subsidies to local governments given the quake and tsunami hit financially troubled municipalities.
Katayama did not elaborate on the possible amount of state subsidies for disaster-stricken municipalities in fiscal 2011 starting Saturday. He said, ''The figure stood at 30 billion yen after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. But it would fall far short (of the need this time). It will inevitably grow to a considerable amount.''
Takeshi Hidaka, parliamentary environment secretary, said prefectural governments should lead the work in getting rid of rubble for cities, towns or villages if asked to do so by the smaller governments. Hidaka made the statement during a meeting with Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso.
The moves are part of the central government's efforts to accelerate disaster relief and reconstruction work, while trying to contain the crisis involving some troubled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said the government has ordered plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to find out why highly radioactive pools of water were found in the basement of the No 2 reactor's turbine building, and instructed the transfer of the water to a different place so that workers can resume restoration work.
With Self-Defense Forces members involved in helping the disaster-stricken areas in northeastern and eastern Japan, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said he will visit the hardest-hit Miyagi Prefecture's Oshika Peninsula and other locations Monday to encourage the SDF troops.
Bureaucrats are also being urged by the government to voluntarily participate in disaster relief operations such as distributing emergency relief supplies to evacuees especially in the heavily affected areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, government officials said.
The central government wants its employees to visit the disaster-hit areas and get hands-on experience in helping society by reinforcing the lack of manpower in some local governments and evacuation centers, they said.