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Some Tohoku disaster-displaced to remain in shelters up to 10 years

Kyodo

Some of the people affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami will have to stay in temporary housing up to 10 years after the disaster, a new survey shows.

Around 59,000 people, many of whom are elderly, were still living in the prefabricated makeshift housing in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures as of late January, although the number has decreased by almost half from its peak.

Japan will mark the fifth anniversary of the disaster Friday.

Forty-six municipalities in the northeastern prefectures were asked when they expected the evacuees to leave the housing complexes.

In the town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, nearly 2,900 people — a quarter of the town’s population — are still living in temporary housing. Officials there said it won’t be until around March 2021 at the earliest that everyone will be out of the units.

Devastated by the tsunami of March 11, 2011, Otsuchi has been working on moving people to higher ground, but it has faced difficulty finding appropriate land, the officials said.

Many other municipalities surveyed by Kyodo News said it will take until 2019 to complete the transfer of evacuees from makeshift housing.

Seventeen local governments said they could not make any forecast, including 11 in Fukushima Prefecture, where the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant forced many residents to flee their homes.

After the 1995 massive earthquake that struck Kobe and other western Japan areas, it took five years for all the evacuees to leave their makeshift shelters.

Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics, with the central government underscoring that the event will be an opportunity to show the world how Japan has rebuilt from the 2011 calamity that left over 15,000 people dead or missing.