Residents in areas hit by natural disasters responded to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement Friday of his decision to resign with words of gratitude and concern.
“The current administration supported us well, and we were able to speedily push forward with reconstruction,” said Yoshihide Abe, 52, head of a group aimed at rebuilding the town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture. Regarding the next prime minister, he said, “I believe the change to a younger generation will lead to good results.”
The town’s center, which was destroyed by the March 2011 tsunami, has seen major progress in reconstruction, with a processing plant, train station and other facilities rebuilt.
“I felt Prime Minister Abe has always cared about disaster areas,” vocational school student Shinya Sasaki, 19, said. “I wanted him to continue.” Abe once visited his high school in the town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, which was also damaged by the tsunami.
Tamiko Ando, 74, lived in the town of Tomioka in adjacent Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the quake and tsunami. Following the unprecedented triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which suffered a blackout, she was forced to move further inland to Koriyama. “I wanted him to exercise his leadership a bit more,” she said.
“I have no expectations” for the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, she said, citing Abe’s September 2013 comments during Tokyo’s bid that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was “under control.”
“I want the next prime minister to take action and push forward postdisaster reconstruction,” Ando said. The Tokyo Games have been postponed by a year to 2021 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In Kyushu, residents of Kumamoto Prefecture who experienced widespread damage from the April 2016 earthquakes and this year’s heavy rain expressed thanks.
“I’ve heard he is sick, so it can’t be helped,” said a 70-year-old woman who was surprised by news of Abe’s decision. She was forced to move into a shelter in Hitoyoshi following the rain disaster.
“I am worried about my life from now on,” she said.
A 46-year-old man whose home in the village of Kuma was inundated by flood waters, believes Abe “had lots on his hands” due to having to respond to both the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters.
“I want aid measures to continue” under the next prime minister, he said.
Mayumi Tominaga, 61, a resident of the city of Kumamoto who represented relatives of the victims of the Kumamoto quakes at a memorial service in April 2017, thanked Abe for expressing his intent to support disaster victims at the ceremony.
But she also said she hopes the next administration will “listen to small voices,” noting that her mother died from the effects of living in a car after the quakes, and that the current government did not provide enough support to such people.