Coastal areas of tsunami-ravaged prefecture still hurt by drop in population

Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture was devastated by the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake. This photo was taken on March 12, 2011, a day after the disaster. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture was devastated by the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake. This photo was taken on March 12, 2011, a day after the disaster. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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January 13, 2016

By HARUFUMI MORI/ Staff Writer

SENDAI–Tsunami-stricken coastal areas of Miyagi Prefecture registered significant population declines, but the overall number of residents dropped only slightly due to an influx of workers and volunteers to urban areas, national census figures show.

The population of the northeastern prefecture as of Oct. 1 stood at 2,334,215, down 13,950, or 0.6 percent, from the last census taken in 2010, a year before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear crisis in nearby Fukushima Prefecture.

In releasing the figures Jan. 12, the Miyagi prefectural government stressed that they are only preliminary.

It estimated that the number of people relocating to the prefecture outnumbered those leaving by about 24,000 since 2010. The inflow is due mainly to the number of people engaged in reconstruction projects, construction work and volunteer activities to help the prefecture recover from the disaster. That helped stem a sharp decline in the prefecture’s overall population even though many residents perished in the tsunami or moved away.

Authorities said at least 6,000 residents who evacuated their homes after the tsunami disaster are still living outside the prefecture. It also noted that many others died or went missing in the disaster.

The population increase centered mainly in urban areas.

In Sendai, the population increased by 36,199, or 3.5 percent, from 2010.

On the other hand, municipalities along the scenic Sanriku coast in the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture experienced a significant population decrease because of the devastation caused by tsunami that claimed around 12,000 lives locally.

The town of Onagawa found its population depleted by 37 percent. This was the highest rate in the three disaster-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, excluding municipalities where evacuation orders were issued following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The town of Minami-Sanriku found its population dropped by 29 percent.

By HARUFUMI MORI/ Staff Wr
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