Three months have passed since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku Pacific coastal areas. Many of the areas and local residents remain in a crisis situation. More than 15,400 people are dead and about 8,000 others are missing.

About 85,000 people still reside in temporary shelters. They are forced to lead difficult lives there.

As a rainy season sets in, there will arise dangers of food poisoning and infectious diseases. The progress of reconstruction is different from municipality to municipality.

In some municipalities, debris piles up in urban areas because dumping sites cannot be secured. In others, restaurants and hotels have restarted operations. Heavy construction machines and a large number of workers need to be sent to areas where the removal of debris is slow.

All-out efforts should be made to meet the government’s goal of removing all debris by August.

While some 52,000 temporary houses are needed in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, only half the number has been completed so far. Many of them have been built in inland areas far from traditional communities. Sites on higher ground near the now-devastated communities have been set aside for construction of permanent houses.

Some refugees have refused to live in temporary houses because they are far from their workplaces or schools.

In temporary shelters, it is difficult to protect one’s privacy. But food is delivered, doctors make regular visits and volunteers help those staying there.

Once people start living in temporary houses, they have to prepare meals and visit doctors by themselves. Municipalities must make special efforts to ensure that aged people living alone in temporary houses do not suffer from health problems.

In the case of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, many aged people died lonely deaths in temporary houses.

Efforts to create new communities among people living in temporary houses will be indispensable.

In addition, the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. must mobilize all the available resources to bring the Fukushima nuclear crisis under control and decontaminate affected areas as soon as possible so residents who were forced to evacuate can return to their homes.

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