Japan to Appoint Quake-Reconstruction Minister

Seismic disaster killed more than 15,000 people.

Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan has chosen disaster-management minister Ryu Matsumoto as the minister in charge of reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, reports said Friday.

Matsumoto, who also serves as an environment minister, will officially take up the new portfolio on Monday, according to major local media, including Jiji Press, public broadcaster NHK and the Nikkei financial daily.

The senior ruling party lawmaker has been in charge of programs to remove debris and to deliver aid to tens of thousands of people living at evacuation shelters, NHK said. Kan decided to give 60-year-old Matsumoto the new post to ensure continuity in those programs, NHK said.

Officials are considering handing his environment duties to another person to allow Matsumoto to focus on his new position, Jiji Press said.

Scores of communities along the northern Pacific coast were destroyed by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which also triggered the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

The seismic disaster killed 15,482 people and left 7,427 missing.

The government estimates that property and infrastructure damage from the disaster will total about $210 billion, excluding the cost associated with the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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