“The city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, one of the Pacific coastal regions hardest hit by the devastating March 11 quake, started taking applications for temporary housing Saturday, becoming the first municipality to take a such step, a move toward reconstruction, in the affected areas.
Some evacuees are hinging their hopes on a chance to get away from the awkward life in shelters, while others are hesitant about taking the offer, wondering if they should continue living in their hometown that was flattened by the devastating tsunami.
‘‘We are planning to accommodate all disaster victims hoping to move in,’’ said a city official. The local government is planning to determine how many units to build after checking demand.
Rikuzentakata had a population of roughly 23,300 in about 7,800 households, according to the 2010 national census conducted by the central government before the quake.
The first applicants showed up at a counter of the municipal government office set up in a prefabricated building just past 8:30 a.m. in the morning.
A woman, 49, from the Kesen district, said her home was completely torn down by the tsunami. ‘‘I am hoping that we could get a large temporary home because we are a family of six.’’ She wishes to get a home in the same district, saying she does not want to leave the place where she is attached to after living there for years.
Seishichi Terui, 70, said his home was washed away and pleaded to a city official, saying, ‘‘I hope you will let us move into a temporary home as soon as possible.’‘
Many neighbors remain missing, he said. He evacuated to a municipal junior high school with his wife Kimiko, 64, taking with them little more than the clothes on their back. He said, ‘‘There isn’t much freedom’’ at the shelter.
People will be allowed to live in the temporary homes for up to two years.
Setsuko Kumagai, 70, who lost her home in the Hirota district, where she was living alone, was despondent. ‘‘Even if I could move in, being a pensioner, I would have difficulty making a living after I move out of the temporary housing,’’ she said.
Some elderly people who had been living alone are planning to start a new life with others. Kiyoko Kikaiwada, 77, who lost her home in the Takata district in the tsunami, wants to share a home with an 86-year-old woman friend who used to live in her neighborhood.
‘‘I would feel lonely if I have to live alone, and I would also feel anxious because my back and knees are bad,’’ she said.
Mitsuyo Sasaki, 50, who is living in a shelter with her 54-year-old husband and 9-year-old daughter, said, ‘‘We have not made up our mind yet about whether we should apply for it.’‘
She said she is attached to her neighbors and her neighborhood and is thankful for them for helping her raise her daughter. But having lost relatives in the tsunami, she said she is uneasy. ‘‘People say it’s a tsunami that only comes once every 1,000 years but I don’t feel secure even after it happened.’‘
She said she has no plans to rebuild a home where her home, which was washed away by the tsunami, had once stood.
Sasaki also expressed concerns about her daughter’s school that was also hit by the disaster. She is also worried about what would happen to her husband’s job. He has been working for a company in adjacent Ofunato city, which was also hard hit by the quake and tsunami. ‘‘I am troubled as to whether I should continue living in Rikuzentakata,’’ she said.”