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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Not so "temporary" (housing)

 March 7, 2016

FIVE YEARS AFTER: 10% of evacuees in temporary housing face uncertain future




Roughly one in 10 of all households still living in free temporary housing due to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster has no idea where to live in the future, even though some must move out as early as this spring, an Asahi Shimbun survey shows.

As many occupants of temporary housing are struggling to rebuild their lives, the central government will have to consider steps to help them move into permanent dwellings.

Prefabricated structures were built to house victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident five years ago in the most affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. The units in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures are expected to be dismantled by 2020.

Free temporary housing units for evacuees numbered around 54,000 in the three prefectures as of the end of January. This includes prefabricated structures built for victims, as well as regular rented accommodation.

The Disaster Relief Law stipulates that occupants can basically stay in temporary housing for up to two years.

But the time limit was extended to five years because of the scale of the disaster that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

Prefectural authorities in Iwate and Miyagi decided in spring last year that evacuees in 12 municipalities are eligible to live in temporary housing for up to five years. This means that some of the evacuees will be obliged to move out of their temporary housing this spring.

In 14 localities in the two prefectures, evacuees are allowed to stay for a total of six years. This is because housing projects are lagging behind in those areas.

In the case of Fukushima Prefecture, no definite time limit is in place for residents forced from their homes in the evacuation zone established by the central government in the aftermath of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

But for those who fled of their own volition from areas outside the evacuation zone are permitted to remain in temporary housing in and out of Fukushima Prefecture for free, in principle, through March 2017.

The Asahi Shimbun contacted 26 local governments in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures to ascertain what evacuees in temporary housing were thinking in late January with regard to moving out. Fukushima Prefecture was not included in the survey since it has not completed such a study.

The Asahi survey showed that about 670 of 8,650 or so households in Iwate Prefecture have not found a place to move into or have no idea what to do once they leave the temporary housing.

In Miyagi Prefecture, about 2,030 of 19,800 or so households gave similar responses.

Those households are not believed to have applied for public housing for evacuees, which occupants can rent at a lower rate, or other forms of accommodation, either.

Households with no definite plans about where to live in the future include those that did not respond to some of the questions in the survey or were too sick to communicate properly.

Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture had the largest number of households that remained undetermined about new homes, with 1,219 replying out of a total of 7,222.

“Since they are low-income households, many will face financial difficulty since they have to pay rent after they move into public housing earmarked for disaster victims,” said an Ishinomaki official.

An official with city authorities in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, said evacuees suffering from serious health problems are unable to think straight about their future.

“Some people are too depressed to think about their future,” the official said, adding that “others could not respond since their dementia is too advanced.”

The survey found that about 140 households of 4,550 or so in the 12 municipalities of Iwate and Miyagi prefectures have still not decided what to do even though the extension of their duration of stay ends in April or later.

The comparable number stood at 2,560 out of 23,900 in the 14 localities.

(This article was written by Takashi Togo and Nobuyoshi Nakamura.)



Some Tohoku disaster-displaced to remain in shelters up to 10 years



SENDAI – Some of the people affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami will have to stay in temporary housing up to 10 years after the disaster, a new survey shows.

Around 59,000 people, many of whom are elderly, were still living in the prefabricated makeshift housing in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures as of late January, although the number has decreased by almost half from its peak.

Japan will mark the fifth anniversary of the disaster Friday.

Forty-six municipalities in the northeastern prefectures were asked when they expected the evacuees to leave the housing complexes.

In the town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, nearly 2,900 people — a quarter of the town’s population — are still living in temporary housing. Officials there said it won’t be until around March 2021 at the earliest that everyone will be out of the units.

Devastated by the tsunami of March 11, 2011, Otsuchi has been working on moving people to higher ground, but it has faced difficulty finding appropriate land, the officials said.

Many other municipalities surveyed by Kyodo News said it will take until 2019 to complete the transfer of evacuees from makeshift housing.

Seventeen local governments said they could not make any forecast, including 11 in Fukushima Prefecture, where the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant forced many residents to flee their homes.

After the 1995 massive earthquake that struck Kobe and other western Japan areas, it took five years for all the evacuees to leave their makeshift shelters.

Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics, with the central government underscoring that the event will be an opportunity to show the world how Japan has rebuilt from the 2011 calamity that left over 15,000 people dead or missing.


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