KUROSHIO, KOCHI PREF./NUMAZU, SHIZUOKA PREF. – Residents in Pacific coastal areas thought to be vulnerable to large-scale tsunami have started discussing collective relocation to higher ground, but building a consensus isn’t easy.
With memories of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami becoming increasingly distant, residents seem to be losing their sense of crisis.
It is feared that Kuroshio, a coastal town in Kochi Prefecture, will be hit by tsunami of 34 meters — the highest predicted for any location in the country — in the event of a huge earthquake originating in the Nankai Trough in the Pacific, according to a report drawn up in March by a Cabinet Office-commissioned expert panel.
In the town’s Ideguchi district, half of its 174 households are predicted to be submerged. Residents launched a meeting in October to look at the possibility of collective relocation following a proposal by a young member of the community.
“If we remain where we are, young people will move out and we will be further depopulated. If only elderly people are left behind, evacuation will not be smooth,” Hiroshi Hamamura, a 64-year-old leader of the district, said.
“Relocation may save not only human lives but the future of the community as well.”
But there is an economic obstacle. While land preparation on higher ground for residential use will be subsidized by the central government, housing construction needs to be paid for by residents.
The financial costs are too heavy to bear for elderly people and residents already burdened with housing loans. In addition, not a few residents feel uncomfortable about leaving a neighborhood they are emotionally attached to.
Tamotsu Kaneko, a 45-year-old self-employed man who proposed the meeting, confessed he has mixed feelings.
“It is scary to think the network in the community will break down after relocation,” he said.
“In a community where everyone knows each other, I don’t think we can draw the conclusion that we should move to higher ground even at the expense of those who cannot go along.”
In the Uchiuraomosu district of Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, 80 percent of residents who attended a general meeting in March 2012 supported a proposal for collective relocation. Helped by City Hall, the district, with 136 households, started a study meeting with experts in July that year.
However, of 106 households who answered a survey last April, 45 percent were cautious about the notion of collective relocation, 8 percent were positive about it, and 32 said they would view the option positively only if certain conditions were met.
“Among residents, the vivid memories of the March 2011 disaster are beginning to fade,” said Masayoshi Kikuchi, a 67-year-old former leader of the neighborhood association.
Still, when considering its future, the community cannot abandon the option of collective relocation. The association set up a task force in June to study relocation to higher ground and started discussing moving at least those people who wish to go.
Quake rocks Ibaraki
A strong earthquake rocked Ibaraki Prefecture Tuesday morning.
The jolt with an estimated magnitude of 5.4 measured lower 5 on the Japanese intensity scale to 7 in the city of Takahagi, the Meteorological Agency said.
The quake occurred some 10 km underground in northern Ibaraki shortly past 10 a.m., the agency said. No tsunami warning was issued.
The prefectural government said Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 power station and other nuclear facilities suffered no damage.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported no damage at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants in neighboring Fukushima prefecture.
The jolt was felt in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, as well as the Tokyo metropolitan area.
There were no reports of damage following the quake.
A section of the Joban Expressway was briefly closed for safety checks.