Volunteers start working in quake-hit Wajima City

Volunteers have begun clearing debris created by the New Year's Day earthquake in the city of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan.

The city had not accepted volunteers due to major blackouts and disruptions in its water supply. But it began accepting them in affected areas on Saturday as work to reconstruct damaged roads and collect disaster-related waste has progressed.

About 40 volunteers arrived on a bus at a commercial facility in the city shortly before 11 a.m. They had applied to be involved through a website set up by the prefecture.

Wajima Mayor Sakaguchi Shigeru welcomed them at the site. He said their involvement will be a first step toward helping people affected by the quake reconstruct their lives and their help should make people feel positive.

The staff of the city's social welfare council reminded the volunteers to stay away from buildings when a quake occurs and to consult with officials when they have questions.

The volunteers then boarded vehicles to travel to affected homes and hotels.

A man in his 20s from Saitama Prefecture said he came to help people who are in a difficult situation. He added he will work hard for them.