Razing of wrecked homes lagging badly as Fukushima residents ponder return

Fukushima Minpo

The central government is covering the demolition costs for disaster-hit homes in Fukushima Prefecture, but 70 percent of the razing requests have not been completed.

The Environment Ministry plans to revise the procedures for handling demolition requests because the situation could further prevent residents from returning to the radiation-tainted areas.

As of Jan. 8, 5,780 applications — or over 70 percent of the 7,670 demolition requests — had not been processed.

Minamisoma aims to have the central government lift evacuation orders in most of the city this spring. But only 30 percent of the 2,600 houses earmarked for demolition have been razed, leaving 1,780 to go.

The town of Kawamata and the village of Katsurao also want evacuation orders lifted from April, but the razing is only 17 percent complete in Kawamata and 6 percent in Katsurao. Tamura and the village of Kawauchi have meanwhile torn down all homes earmarked for demolition.

The ministry says the time-consuming nature of the work is one reason for the backlog, since it involves confirming ownership, inspecting properties and calculating costs.

The central government has expanded the program to cover not only houses damaged by the quake and tsunami, but also those damaged by leaky roofs during the prolonged evacuation. This raised applications to a level officials can’t keep up with, the ministry said.

Evacuees are calling for speedier action. Tomoya Suzuki, 67, who fled the Odaka district of Minamisoma to the town of Shinchi further north, applied to have his house demolished last August. His application is still pending.

“I would like to go back to Odaka as soon as the evacuation orders are lifted, but I can’t rebuild my house unless it’s demolished,” he said.

The government has said it will lift evacuation orders in Minamisoma by March 2017.

“The central government has decided to lift evacuation orders when the living environment for the residents is not prepared yet,” he said. “I find that contradictory.”

The ministry says it cannot drastically increase manpower, and will deal with the glut by giving priority to those who wish to return.

This section features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Feb. 29.