Tsunami victims forget relocation as progress stalls

Kyodo

Twenty percent of households that were part of community resettlement plans as a result of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake have dropped out over the past year as progress on the projects has stalled, according to data from the Reconstruction Agency.

Municipal governments involved in community resettlement plans — in which entire communities are relocated to safer, higher ground — are now being forced to scale back their plans.

Despite ongoing efforts during the three years since the disaster occurred, virtually none of the resettlement plans have moved forward, in part due to the time-consuming nature of construction work to make inland mountainous areas fit for residences.

People who lost their homes to the tsunami have meanwhile settled elsewhere, and some people have moved from temporary shelters to government-sponsored apartments.

The statistics from the agency confirm that 1,682 households have withdrawn from community resettlement plans in Iwate Prefecture, leaving just 8,405 households still on the list.

Miyagi Prefecture has seen 3,624 households drop out, with 11,808 households remaining, and in Fukushima, 466 households have dropped out, leaving 2,075 households in such programs.

In the town of Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, the number of households willing to join the resettlement plan has plummeted from 1,686 to 935. Elderly who had been willing to move to higher ground changed their mind and decided to move to public apartments.”

The town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, whose downtown areas were wiped out by the tsunami, saw 135 homes drop out of its plan. The town has few flat areas, making it a time-consuming job to develop residential areas at higher elevations.

In the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which currently has the largest resettlement plan of all communities affected by the tsunami, the number of participating households has dropped to 3,835 from 5,133. Many residents there have also moved out of town.

“We are busy visiting temporary housing complexes to accurately access what each of the households intends to do,” a city official said.

The city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, now has 396 homes participating in its community resettlement plan, down from 433 last year, and expects more residents to abandon the city. “An increasing number of people say they want to move outside the evacuation zone,” an official said.