FOUR YEARS AFTER: Many schools still not rebuilt due to rising costs, other priorities

March 08, 2015

Students of Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, attend classes in prefabricated school buildings as reconstruction of school buildings are delayed. (Eiichiro Suganuma)

Students of Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, attend classes in prefabricated school buildings as reconstruction of school buildings are delayed. (Eiichiro Suganuma)

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the broken buildings of the Schools in Usunomai are gone, the new buildings will stand up the hill – but it will take three more years that pupils can enter it.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

For students who entered Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, they will attend classes in prefabricated buildings for six years until graduation.

The school, located near the sea, was swallowed up by the ensuing tsunami, although all the 350 students were safely evacuated to a hillside.

Unosumai is among the many elementary and junior high schools damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that have experienced delays in rebuilding.

The large number of public works projects currently ongoing in the disaster-hit areas have resulted in a rise in the costs of construction materials and a serious shortage of workers.

Priorities have also been placed on large-scale projects, such as construction of roads ordered by the central government. Subsequently, reconstruction of school buildings has been put on the back burner.

At Unosumai Elementary, 182 students are studying in prefabricated buildings, as reconstruction of their school has yet to be started.

As prices of concrete and labor costs of workers have jumped in a short period of time, the costs of the reconstruction plan worked out in spring 2014 ballooned. As a result, the central government did not approve the plan.

In a process that took six months, the Kamaishi city government decreased the construction budget by making changes, including scaling back the school buildings. It also introduced a special bidding process that selected contractors from the design stage.

Despite those efforts, the school buildings are not expected to be completed until 2017, which means classes will continue in the prefabricated buildings.

“Though the school buildings are prefabricated ones, children are enjoying their school lives,” said Chizuko Kobayashi, 41, whose three daughters are attending Unosumai Elementary School.

The school bus that transports children from temporary housing facilities to the school passes through districts that were devastated by the tsunami. Because of that, when a tsunami warning is issued, students sometimes have to stay at the prefabricated school buildings until late at night.

“I hope that the school buildings that children can attend safely are constructed as early as possible,” Kobayashi said.

According to the Iwate prefectural government, of the 15 schools damaged by the tsunami, Funakoshi Elementary School in Yamada completed reconstruction of its school buildings in spring 2014.

The school buildings of Takata High School in Rikuzentakata are also scheduled to be completed late this month.

However, students in the remaining 13 elementary or junior high schools in five municipalities are still studying in prefabricated buildings or using buildings of former schools.

The reconstruction of Otsuchi Elementary School and Otsuchi Junior High School in Otsuchi, Takata-Higashi Junior High School in Rikuzentakata, and Okirai Elementary School in Ofunato are likely to be delayed for six months or more as municipal governments have failed to secure contractors in the bidding process.

In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, 15 elementary and junior high schools are still using prefabricated buildings or other facilities. It is taking time for many of them and two public high schools to choose new sites for their schools or complete reconstruction of their buildings.

Completion of the new Yuriage Elementary School and Yuriage Junior High School in Natori are likely to be delayed until April 2018. A relocation site for Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki also has yet to be determined.

(This article was written by Eiichiro Suganuma and Masataka Yamaura.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Finding a place to call home still plagues Japanese displaced by quake and tsunami

BY MIMI WHITEFIELD

MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM

01/08/2015 7:00 AM

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SENDAI, JAPAN

For Kiichi Kida, the reason he doesn’t want to leave the land where the Great East Japan Earthquake shook his home and then triggered a killer tsunami that swept it away begins 500 years ago. That’s where he starts the story of his fight to stay on his land in Arahama, a southeastern coastal district of Sendai that was devastated on March 11, 2011 when 36-foot waves — looking more like a black stew of broken trees, bobbing cars and unmoored houses than water — rushed far, far inland. His ancestors, he explains, were samurai who lived on Shikoku, an island in western Japan. After they hung up their swords five centuries ago, they moved to the Arahama area where fish were plentiful and the mountains full of game.

Now, little remains of Arahama beyond the stone foundations of the homes once occupied by Kida, 69, and his neighbors. The city has told them they can’t rebuild on their ancestral lands because they are too close to the coast.

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake (1)

Waves of the 2011 tsunami hit residences after a powerful earthquake in Natori, Miyagi prefecture (state), Japan, March 11, 2011. It was the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history. | AP

The local government would like to buy the land and turn it into a park or other public facility, but it can’t force people like Kida to sell.That tug-of-war in Arahama points up the problems of reconstruction and rebuilding lives nearly four years since the twin wallop of the earthquake and tsunami claimed nearly 16,000 lives — 2,623 are also still listed as missing — and destroyed 127,305 homes. More than 1 million others were damaged.

In Arahama, 187 people died and six are classified as missing. It once had a population of 3,400, but now Arahama is little more than a ghost town. A wall of water that swept over the pine forest separating the community from the wide beach snapped off the trees like toothpicks and turned them into spears that came crashing into homes. “It’s the city’s opinion they should move to a safe place, rather than rebuild — expensively — on a coastal site,” said Kenichi Suzuki, who has been working with tsunami victims on behalf of Sendai’s Wakabayashi ward office. But that collides with a traditional way of thinking that some residents still embrace. “They believe that the ancestor spirits still reside in these areas and they should protect the land for them,” said Akiko Sugita, secretary general of Japan’s Foreign Press Center. “Public authorities want to encourage them to give up the land and move on, but it is taking a long time.”

Even for the third-largest economy in the world, putting communities back together is a struggle. During the disaster, 470,000 people were forced out of their homes. Some 240,000 people, including 80,000 evacuated because of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster that followed the quake and tsunami, are still displaced. They live in temporary housing or bunk with relatives and friends. “Home rebuilding is our top priority,” said Yoshifumi Ayusawa, of Japan’s Reconstruction Agency. But shortages of building materials and construction workers, land ownership issues and the relocation of residents from areas no longer considered inhabitable have slowed the process. This fiscal year work is expected to be underway on 87 percent of the public housing planned for those who lost homes. Over the span of five years, the cost of reconstruction is expected to reach $220 billion. The plan is to close the reconstruction agency dealing with the triple disaster known as 3-11 by March 2021 but the expectation is that dealing with the fallout from the nuclear plant will take far longer. Some 1.35 million tons of debris were cleaned up in Sendai after the tsunami and quake and the mountains of destroyed cars were sent to the recyclers long ago.

But the memories of March 11 are everywhere.

The bridge where traffic became so congested that people couldn’t escape still stands. At the Yuriage Junior High in nearby Natori, the clock is still stopped at 2:46 p.m., the hour the 9.0 earthquake — the greatest magnitude ever recorded in Japan — hit 40 miles offshore.

Along the more than 300 miles of Japanese coastline affected by the tsunami, tide walls are being constructed or rebuilt, and the concrete barriers — the highest will be nearly as tall as a five-story building — aren’t without controversy.

Critics claim this Great Wall of Japan won’t be sufficient to protect against a tsunami of the magnitude that ravaged the coast on March 11, are an eyesore that cuts off the sea from fishing communities and could adversely affect the environment. The government says they are needed to save lives in a country that experiences 1,000 earthquakes a year.

In Sendai, the tsunami walls are being raised from almost 20 feet to 23.6 feet. Work also has begun on raising land that sank as much as three feet after the quake and elevating a 6.2-mile stretch of the Sendai Tobu highway to 20 feet. New stairways and signs indicating people should climb the highway embankments in the face of a tsunami are being put up. The highway project is expected to take five years to complete but officials say it is vital because during the 2011 tsunami elevated sections of the highway prevented waves from flowing even further inland. “We think that with these two barriers (the elevated highway and the walls), we will be able to protect against a tsunami of the once- in-100-years variety,” said Suzuki. But the waves that pounded the northeastern coast of Japan in 2011 were of the once-in-a-millennium variety. Simulations show that with the raised embankment and higher tsunami walls, flooding on the west side of the elevated road would be less than 6 1/2 feet. Through such simulations, “we’re gaining more knowledge about how tide walls can save lives,” said Katsumi Abe, of the Miyagi Harbor Restoration agency. “We expect when the repairs are complete, this area will be safer than before.”

But Kida doesn’t think so: “I’ve opposed the walls from the beginning. They are changing the land. Every time it rains, the water flows toward the sea and those flows shouldn’t be interrupted. We think Sendai City isn’t putting enough focus on nature.” As the fractious debate continues, memories of the snowy March day when coastal residents’ world went under water are still causing psychological scars. Kida is determined to hold on to his plot even as he readies a home site further inland. “My ancestors are here and I want to protect this area as long as possible,” he said. “People should have a choice where they want to live; they shouldn’t be forced. The decision to establish restricted areas is up to Sendai and the other towns and cities along the coast, Abe said. But Kida said his ancestors came “hundreds of years before Sendai was established. I am not leaving because the city says I have to.”

He heads an organization called The Group that Wants Restoration of Arahama. “We think that living on the shore is natural in an island like Japan. Modern technology should make this possible,” Kida said. On his former home site, he has put up two buildings that seem quite permanent but technically aren’t homes. One, which has electricity and cooking facilities, is the club house for the Arahama group. The other, which includes a bathroom, will be Kida’s personal office. One of his neighbors — the only one in the community to resume fishing — has built two rough fish shacks on the land where his home once stood, and Chickako Syoji, who does office work for the Arahama restoration group, has put up a tent near her former home’s foundation stones. She dreams of someday having a seaside library on the spot. It wouldn’t be a conventional library, but rather a place where local people could come together to tell their stories and bring in books they wanted to share with others. “It won’t be a big square building with a lot of books,” she said. “My son is a librarian. It’s still in the concept stage and we’re still figuring out the details.”

But despite the hopeful dreams, Arahama and Yuriage are still desolate. Here and there a lonely pine that escaped the onslaught punctuates the coastline or a battered concrete block home stands.

“When we first came back to see Arahama, it was swept clean; there was just this vast space and it was horrifying,” said former resident Adachi Tadashi, a community leader. He later found his crushed house 2.5 miles inland. Homes, businesses, boats and the top soil from farmlands also were washed away in Yuriage. Now the wide open fields make it resemble a rural area and vegetation is beginning to reclaim the roads in a 158-acre protected area where no home can be rebuilt. “Part of the reason the damage was so great here was because we weren’t acting responsibly,’’ said Koichi Sakurai, who worked in a Yuriage seafood processing plant and fish market that was destroyed by the tsunami. “People in this area weren’t expecting a tsunami or perhaps only a small one.” Instead, he said, the giant waves came five times, killing 750 people in a district that had a pre-tsunami population of 5,000. “Evacuation drills only took place once a year — and usually only elderly people participated,” said Sakurai. “But it was a drill in name only.’’

He shows a terrifying aerial video of people moving leisurely toward higher ground as, apparently unbeknown to them, a menacing wall of water just a few rows of houses away rushes toward them.

No tsunami warning was given in Yuriage, Sakurai said, because the earthquake had already knocked out emergency communications equipment. In other areas, the rising water damaged emergency equipment. “They thought all they had to do was install the devices and their job was over. Residents have lost faith in the authorities and that is one reason reconstruction is so slow in this area,’’ Sakurai said. Abe, of the Miyagi Harbor Restoration agency, said lessons were learned during the tsunami and new emergency facilities will be built on higher ground. Meanwhile, the work of repairing docks and fish packing and distribution houses continues. The ports in Miyagi Prefecture sustained damage of around $2.2 billion but all are now at least partially operational. Many people don’t want to return to Yuriage even though they still owe debt on their destroyed homes, Sukurai said. “If I had the money, I would be rebuilding elsewhere,” he added. Many former residents are still living in temporary housing far inland from Yuriage.

“My mother is 85 years and she says she doesn’t plan to have a funeral in temporary housing,’’ Sakurai said. “I’m grateful for temporary housing but now very few people are appreciating it.” Scattered around Sendai, a city of 1.7 million, are 20 temporary housing sites with 1,500 units. Many more families, said Suzuki, have rented apartments on their own. Around 130 families live in temporary quarters on a city-owned site earmarked for the Arai elementary school. Some residents have tried to brighten up their low portable dwellings with plants and flowers but others have fallen into depression. Teams of mental health workers visit periodically. “Some are really depressed and for them, small problems can seem very big. Everyone is feeling stress but some people are annoyed by the very trivial,” said Tadashi, 72, who is a leader at temporary housing as he was in Arahama. “They complain their neighbors are too noisy or they hear pigeons and sparrows walking around on the tin roofs because people are feeding them,” he said. “We listen to their stories even if we can’t solve them. I do think this has helped me grow as a person.” To keep spirits up, there is karaoke and dancing at the community center, and a group of women has learned to play songs, such as Orange Tree on the Hill on the koto, a traditional instrument.

Katsuyoshi Hayasaka, 74, who headed the Arahama Residents’ Association has taken up a similar role at the Arai community. During the tsunami, he helped to organize community residents who sought refugee at the Arahama Elementary School and were rescued by helicopter from the roof. At the school, he tried to keep his neighbors together and drew up lists of who was there and who wasn’t. “It was very cold and the teachers tore down the curtains and wrapped the children in them,’’ he said. Now he feels a similar sense of responsibility for the people at Arai. Syoji also lives there with her 89-year-old mother Tsumeko. They are packed in but the tiny apartment does have air conditioning and everyone was given a refrigerator, microwave, rice cooker, small television, washing machine, blankets and a pot to boil water. Still, Tsumeko is happy. When the family’s home was swept way, the wooden memorial plaque for her ancestors was lost. It later turned up in a lost-and-found and she beamed as she displayed the nicked but still intactihai to a visitor.

Syoji had hoped to only be in temporary quarters for two years but she said there have been delays in finishing the public housing where she hopes to move. Sendai plans 3,200 units of new public housing but in October, just 660 units had been completed.At Arai-higashi, where a new 197-unit building recently opened, residents gathered at the community center on a rainy afternoon after the remnants of a typhoon had blown through. Even though the complex hasn’t been fully completed, they were moved in anyway because the need was so great. The rent varies at Arai-higashi depending on income, but it is about one-third the cost of regular public housing.About a third of the residents used to live in Arahama, and about 40 percent are 65 years or older — an age when change comes hard. With Suzuki’s help, they had just formed a residents association. “We’re planning on building a community here,” said Kimio Oyashi, 71, the newly minted association president. “We’re pretty satisfied to be here. The size of our apartments is about double what it was in temporary housing. And there you could hear everything the neighbors were doing.” “We’re making efforts to get our lives back together. We just have to keep trying,’ said Teruko Sumi, who recently move in with her two chihuahuas. Unlike most public housing buildings, pets are allowed at Arai-higashi.

Tani Endo, who used to live in Arahama, is feeling much better since the first traumatic days after the tsunami. “It was almost like watching a movie — not our real lives. People were all stacked together after the disaster and we all had to sleep in the same room. “I try to forget but when I look from this building I can see the place where all the pines trees were in Arahama and now there is nothing there,” she said. “But this is a nice place and we have our privacy. Now we are smiling again.” “More than 3 1/2 years have passed,” said Oyashi. “Many people who are here lost everything and we think living in a safe place is most important. Only a small percentage of people want to return — mostly the rice farmers. But for former office workers, it is just too scary.” Sokichi Shoji, 78, and his wife Sachiko have done their best to make their new apartment seem like home even though it is only about a third of the size of their former house. They have brought in plants, artificial turf and stones to recreate the tranquility of a zen garden on their small balcony.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/article5653362.html

Prof. Imamura rät, Überschwemmungsgebiete für Tsunami einzuplanen -防潮堤計画へ新たな疑問浮上「東北大の苦言」

防潮堤計画へ新たな疑問浮上「東北大の苦言」

東北大学災害科学研究所が26年6月に発行した報告書「東日本大震災から見えてきたこと」で、興味深い記述を見つけました。中央防災会議が示した津波対策の指針に対して課題を提起した上で、「堤防の高さは柔軟に考えて、効率的な減災を図ることが必要」と指摘しているのです。さらに、粘り強い防潮堤の減災効果まで疑問視しています。津波対策に力を入れてきた東北大学は、宮城県や被災自治体へ影響力が大きいので、こうした思い切った研究報告に、私はかなり驚いています。

津波工学で有名な今村文彦さんが所長を務める災害科学研究所は、震災を契機に新設されました。この報告書は、来年3月に仙台市で開かれる国連防災世界会議に向けて制作したそうです。震災の教訓を、世界各国に生かしてもらうことが目的です。災害リスク軽減、効果的な対応のための研究成果を報告しています。

この報告の一つに、「2011年巨大津波による海岸堤防の破壊と復興」というテーマがあります。中央防災会議が示した津波をレベル1(避難度の高い津波)とレベル2(頻度の低い最大津波)に分けて対策をとる方針を説明しながら、「国費による防災事業は、災害の種別や地域に寄らず、公平で均衡が取れていること、さらに予算が効率的に使われることが大前提となる」とし、複数の問題点を挙げています。

国の指針を受け、宮城県は施設で守るべき津波の防御水準をレベル1津波の上限である約150年に設定したたことには、「後背地の人口や資産の蓄積を考えた場合に、治水事業に比べて過大防御である」と言及。その一方で、早急な方針提示が必要だったことに理解を示し、「現在は、堤防の高さに対して住民の多様な意見があり、それを検討する時間的な余裕もあることから、堤防の高さは柔軟に考えて、効率的な減災を図ることが必要である」とまとめています。

東北大学の研究報告書2014.6_page001越流した津波から壊れにくくする「粘り強い海岸堤防」については、再現期間が1000年の津波に対して減災することになるため、「さらに吟味が必要である」と厳しい見方をしています。仙台平野において、津波が越流しても堤防が壊れずに残った場合の減災効果を研究した結果、津波を2分ほど遅くさせる効果はあるものの、「堤防が残存することにより、多くの場所で浸水深が増加する」というのです。さらに、レベル1津波とレベル2津波の差が大きい三陸海岸は、「堤防残存による減災効果はより小さくなる」とし、「中央防災会議専門委員会が期待した、粘り強い海岸堤防による減災効果は実現できない」と言い切ったのです。最後には、レベル2津波の減災効果を狙った堤防整備を国費で行うことに対し、「目的達成、防御水準、維持管理のいずれの面からも課題が多く、抜本的な見直しが必要である」と記述しています。

このレポートは、東北大学大学院の田島芳満准教授らが25年に公表した論文「越流を伴う巨大津波に対する海岸堤防の減災機能の検証」が元になっています。この論文では、山がちな沿岸部では「越流を許すような巨大津波が来襲した場合の減災効果はあまり期待できないため、粘り強さよりも堤防高を少しでも高くすることが優先させるべきである」と指摘しています。海岸堤防によって引き波時の排水が阻害され、浸水域が拡大する可能性も問題視し、「排水機能を損なわない海岸堤防の整備・開発が重要である」とまとめていました。条件によっては高い減災効果が得られることも説明しています。

私の見解を述べます。

東日本大震災の被災地はすでにレベル2津波の被害を受けており、それよりも小さいレベル1津波の浸水想定域にはほとんど家は残っていません。それでもレベル1津波に対応した堤防を造るのは、これから再建していく施設を100年前後の間隔で発生する大津波から守るためです。災害危険区域に指定されて今後も民家は建つ見込みがなく、レベル1津波の浸水域に守るべきものが少ない地域では、レベル2津波に対する減災効果を期待して話し合いが進められてきました。当然、レベル2津波でも壊れないということを信じての話し合いでした。もし、東北大の報告書にあるように、「(期待通りの)減災効果は実現できない」どころか、残った堤防が浸水域を拡大させるのならば、話し合いの前提が覆ってしまいます。実は、国内外から注目された小泉海岸は、堤防の位置をセットバックするとレベル2津波による被害拡大が心配されたことも一因となって、県の計画案を地元が受け入れました。工事入札が公告され、「計画変更は不可能」と判断していましたが、前提が異なるのなら違くなります。大谷、内湾などもレベル2津波と災害危険区域拡大の影響を懸念しながら話し合いが行われました。いろいろ気持ちを整理しながら防潮堤問題と向き合ってきましたが、もう一度、考えを整理し直さなければならなくなりました。週明けに確認を急ぎます。

Fixes for temporary housing expected to cost ¥78 billion

Fixes for temporary housing expected to cost ¥78 billion

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe total accumulated cost of repairing and refurbishing temporary houses for disaster victims will likely reach ¥78.03 billion through the end of this fiscal year, according to the governments of the seven prefectures where they were built after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Prefabricated temporary housing units originally designed to last for up to two years have now been used for more than three years. Numerous problems have emerged as a result, including leaking roofs.

An expert panel from the Cabinet Office will begin reexamining the period of use and other aspects of the temporary houses to prepare for future disasters, including a huge earthquake predicted along the Nankai Trough off the Pacific Ocean.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, local governments in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba built the temporary houses based on the Disaster Relief Law. Temporary houses were also built in Nagano Prefecture for victims of another quake in the northern part of the prefecture, which occurred just after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A total of 53,194 temporary housing units were built in the seven prefectures at initial construction costs totaling about ¥290 billion. The units in Chiba, Tochigi and Nagano prefectures were dismantled as of the end of May this year. Currently, 93,017 people live in 42,590 temporary housing units in the remaining four prefectures.

The law stipulates that temporary houses will be usable for two years and have a per-unit acreage of about 30 square meters. The assumed construction cost per unit was about ¥2.39 million at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Many of the temporary houses have similar structures to the prefabricated offices at construction sites. They are zinc-roofed and their walls are thin.

Measures to cope with cold weather were especially insufficient. After construction was completed, additional work was done at the request of residents to reinforce heat insulating materials in the walls and double-layer windows.

Total costs from fiscal 2011 to 2013 in the seven prefectures stood at about ¥73.18 billion. In Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the initial construction costs and the additional work as of January 2013 reached a combined average of ¥6.79 million per unit.

Temporary housing residents are expected to relocate to publicly run housing units for disaster victims. But only 8 percent of the necessary units have been completed, meaning the temporary houses will be used for the foreseeable future. This could present a problem, since some temporary housing units have started to tilt because of weak soil, and residents are increasingly complaining of such problems as leaking roofs and mold.

The prefectural governments of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima allocated a total of about ¥4.86 billion for repairs and other additional work in their fiscal budgets this year, and extended the period people can live in temporary housing to five years. These measures mean necessary repair costs will likely continue increasing.

To extend the durability of the temporary houses, their foundations must be rebuilt using ferro-concrete. But this alone will cost ¥300,000 to ¥400,000 per unit.

If a Nankai Trough quake occurs, about 400,000 temporary housing units will be necessary in the eight prefectures that presented forecast figures, according a The Yomiuri Shimbun survey in December last year.

Consequently, the Cabinet Office panel, which handles how the central government should assist disaster victims, is set to submit proposals about temporary housing for disaster victims.