State to build 20,000 housing units in disaster-hit areas by March 2016

Kyodo

The government said Thursday that it will build nearly 20,000 public housing units by March 2016 for people affected by the March 2011 megaquake-tsunami disaster in the Tohoku region and consequent nuclear crisis.

The goal was stipulated in a plan for rebuilding homes and towns that the government compiled prior to the second anniversary Monday of the March 11 disaster, in which some 19,000 lives were lost.

The government also reiterated its pledge to accelerate efforts to decommission the four crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex and said it plans to finish revising the current work schedule for the whole process around June. The decommissioning is expected to take decades.

“What is mainly expected after two years is to rebuild homes and make the prospects clear to enable people to return to Fukushima Prefecture,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a meeting to discuss reconstruction projects.

The plan calls for the government to build around 5,100 public housing units in Iwate Prefecture, about 11,200 units in Miyagi Prefecture and around 2,900 units in Fukushima Prefecture by the end of fiscal 2015.

At the Fukushima nuclear plant, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. plan to start removing fuel assemblies stored in the spent-fuel pool of reactor 4 starting in November.

Under the current work schedule, the whole decommissioning process is expected to take around 40 years, but Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi has ordered ministry staff to consider moving up the schedule.

Buildings’ quake checks

Kyodo

The Cabinet approved a bill Friday to require large buildings that were built before quake-resistance standards were strengthened in 1981 to undergo seismic diagnosis by the end of 2015.

The buildings will include hospitals, department stores, schools and nursing homes, according to government officials.

Under the bill, local governments will announce the outcomes of the checks based on reports from building owners. There are concerns, however, that some businesses, including hotels, could face problems if customers decrease as a result of the announcements before strengthening work is done.

Owners will face penalties of up to ¥1 million if they make false reports to local governments or refuse to take remedial steps ordered by the authorities.

Care homes struggling

MORIOKA, Iwate Pref.
Kyodo

Only 12 of the 25 special elderly nursing homes damaged in the March 2011 disasters in the Tohoku region had reopened as of the end of February, officials of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures said Friday.

The delay is attributable to the difficulty in acquiring construction sites and securing funds, they said.

The facilities, even if they reopen, will also have trouble securing caregivers at a time when more and more elderly people are in need of long-term care because of physical deterioration as a result of the prolonged period they have spent as evacuees, they said.