Tsunami-hit Iwanuma kicks off relocation project

JIJI

The city of Iwanuma on Sunday held a groundbreaking ceremony in the Tamaura Nishi district as it prepared to move coastal residents inland to protect them from tsunami.

The city, which sits just south of Sendai, became the first municipality in the three-prefecture area that took the brunt of last year’s March 11 tsunami to launch a mass relocation project, the Reconstruction Agency said.

Iwanuma will relocate 348 homes to the 20-hectare Tamaura Nishi district and build 156 public housing units there, hoping to make them available in April 2014. The cost of the project is estimated at ¥10.8 billion.

At the ceremony, Iwanuma Mayor Tsuneaki Iguchi said the city wants to become a model for other tsunami-damaged municipalities hoping to move.

The groundbreaking offers hope to all the other disaster-hit areas, Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano said.

In the three worst-hit prefectures — Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate — 24 municipalities have budgeted money for plans to relocate 245 coastal districts, but only plans for 53 districts in 14 municipalities had won state approval as of July, the agency said.