More than 124,000 people are still housed in some 2,000 temporary shelters in 18 prefectures in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Providing them with temporary housing is an urgent task for the central and local governments.

An estimated 72,000 fabricated houses are needed in the three most devastated prefectures — Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima. Although the land and infrastructure ministry says that land for 52,000 temporary houses has been secured, only 30,000 units are expected to be completed by the end of May.

The difficult problem with the construction of temporary housing for disaster victims is that while most of them want to live again in the coastal areas where they had lived before the disasters, most temporary houses are outside those areas.

In the three prefectures, where mountainous areas lie close to the ocean, it is difficult to build temporary houses in coastal areas, which have been devastated and may be hit again by tsunami.

In Miyagi Prefecture, land for some 28,000 of the needed 30,000 temporary houses has been secured. But 11,525 houses will be built in inland areas outside the coastal regions.

In Fukushima Prefecture, which is affected by the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the existence of the no-entry zone makes it difficult to build temporary houses near places where people used to reside.

In view of the fact that many people remain in temporary shelters, it is necessary to build temporary housing as quickly as possible. The central government should consider leasing private land and using agricultural land because public land is not expansive enough to accommodate the needed temporary houses.

Although the location of temporary houses may not be what people want, at least efforts must be made so that as many former neighbors as possible or at least as many people from the same municipalities as possible can live together in temporary houses. This will help them form a community in temporary residences. Sufficient care should also be made so that elderly people will live safely and their health will be protected in a new environment.

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