About 130 evacuees from Miyake Island moved into public housing Wednesday after spending three nights at the Miyake evacuation headquarters in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.
The majority of them, about 100 residents, were among the first to arrive in Tokyo after fleeing the island under Friday’s evacuation order.
The group included 57 people with illnesses or physical disabilities who were transported to their new homes by three buses chartered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
“This place is too good for us. I am really appreciative of this,” said former postal worker Sumio Yamamoto, 68. He and his family secured their new apartment Wednesday, courtesy of the Housing and Urban Development Corp.
At the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, the headquarters for the evacuation, a second group of 280 residents and a third group of 207 residents are still waiting to be moved into public housing.
The second group is expected to get its keys today.
As of Wednesday, the metropolitan government had secured 1,039 housing units for the evacuees, while an additional 675 properties have been offered by other municipalities and the Housing and Urban Development Corp.
Of those who voluntarily left the island before Friday’s order, a total of 196 households have already settled in at their new accommodations, according to the metropolitan government.
Yamamoto, along with his wife Mariko, 65, and his 90-year-old mother, had spent more than 10 days waiting at a relative’s home in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward.
Their new home is now in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, where his family is likely to remain for several months until the island is declared safe to return.
After viewing the 45-sq.-meter apartment, which has three bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen, Yamamoto said he was both relieved and grateful to have a new home. He especially appreciated its convenient location near Higashi-Oshima Station on the Toei Shinjuku subway line.
Rent for the apartment is around 190,000 yen a month. But the housing corporation will waive the payments for six months.
“The metropolitan government has done very well and moved quickly for us. Now, it is our responsibility to get by this hardship by helping each other in the family,” said Mariko.
The Yamamoto family plans to move into the unit next week after acquiring some basic items of furniture. They will be joined by Mariko’s sister, whose family will move into the apartment next door.
Pointing to the Nakagawa River, which runs alongside the apartment, Mariko said it is nice to live close to the water, as they did on Miyake Island. But the problem of finding jobs, however, is another hurdle that needs to be cleared, although her family is already living on pension payments.
Support for islanders
The government will continue to extend financial and other types of support to residents of Miyake Island who have been evacuated to the mainland because of volcanic activity on the island, Construction Minister Chikage Ogi said Wednesday.
“The government is offering support for the evacuees based on requests by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,” Ogi told reporters. “The government, for example, is working with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to look for vacant rooms in public housing complexes and jobs for evacuees.”
She also said the government is considering providing temporary housing units for the evacuees.
Ogi plans to inspect the island, about 200 km south of Tokyo, with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Sept. 14. The evacuation of almost all the 3,850 residents of Miyake was completed Monday.
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