FOUR YEARS AFTER: More than 60% of evacuees still stuck in temporary housing

March 07, 2015

Temporary housing units constructed in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Temporary housing units constructed in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)


Sixty-one percent of those made homeless by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster are still living in temporary housing, an Asahi Shimbun survey shows.

The Asahi Shimbun sent questionnaires to nearly 1,000 people from the hardest-hit northeastern prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, and received 628 responses.

By prefecture, 59 percent of the Iwate respondents lived in temporary housing. The figure was 58 percent for Miyagi Prefecture and 66 percent for Fukushima Prefecture.

When a similar survey was conducted in 2012, just one year after the disasters, all of the respondents were living in temporary housing. In 2013, the figure was 87 percent, while last year it was 76 percent.

The latest survey showed that 61 percent of respondents are living in temporary housing units, private-sector apartments rented out by the municipal government, public housing or with relatives.

Most of the Fukushima respondents were no longer residing in the municipalities they called home before the 2011 calamity, but an increasing number had moved out of temporary housing over the past year and made a new start elsewhere.

Only 26 percent of the respondents rebuilt or moved into new homes on their original plot. Just 3 percent were able to enter public housing units constructed by local governments for those who do not have the resources to rebuild.

Those still living in temporary housing were asked how long they thought they would have to endure the living arrangement. Twenty-eight percent said one more year, while 19 percent said two more years. Thirteen percent said they would need more than two years.

Respondents were asked to grade the stage of rebuilding in their local communities and the progress made in picking up the threads of their former lives. A rating of 1 meant conditions are as they were immediately after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and nuclear accident, while a rating of 10 meant things are as they were before the March 11, 2011, disaster.

The overall average grade for rebuilding local communities was 4, while the overall average for rebuilding respondents‘ lives was 5.

However, while the average grades for personal rebuilding for Iwate and Miyagi prefectures were 5.5 and 5.4, respectively, the average grade for Fukushima was 4.1.

„There has been absolutely no progress in rebuilding Okuma, (Fukushima Prefecture),“ said a 39-year-old homemaker with three children in elementary school who gave her community a 1 for rebuilding. „It feels as though time has stopped from four years ago.“

Located in Okuma, which co-hosts the stricken Fukushima plant, the woman’s home is in an area designated as being difficult for residents to return to. She now lives in temporary housing in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

„I feel sorry for my children because I have no idea where they will attend their Coming-of-Age Day ceremony,“ she said.

Meanwhile, close to 80 percent of the respondents said they felt a level of disparity had developed in the rebuilding and in support to disaster victims.

Respondents were asked what areas they wanted the central and local governments to focus on in providing support to disaster victims.

The most frequent response at 41 percent was „subsidies for medical expenses,“ while 32 percent said „financial support for rebuilding our homes.“ Other areas with high priority were „subsidies for monthly living expenses“ at 30 percent and „improved elderly care services and rebuilding or new construction of welfare facilities“ at 27 percent.