livelihood, mainichi shinbun, reconstruction

Quake- and tsunami-stricken city starts project to employ beleaguered local residents, 4/24/2011, mainichi

OFUNATO, Iwate — The city government here is launching a project to give local residents who lost their homes or jobs after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami construction jobs in a bid to rebuild the local community.

Satoru Suzuki, 38, who used to work at the Iwate prefectural government and had a narrow escape from the tsunami on March 11, applied for one of the construction jobs offered through the project and was accepted.

“I want to help rebuild my hometown,” he said.

On the day of the earthquake, Suzuki was working in a prefectural government office in Ofunato. He was worried about his 18-year-old daughter, who had just recently graduated from high school and was staying at home by herself. While driving his car on a highway, he saw blackish water approaching from right in front of him. He hastily made a U-turn, but he and his car were swallowed by the tsunami before he could travel more than a few meters.

“That moment seemed like it was in slow motion. I was in mortal fear,” he said. He tried to get out of his car but he could not open the door. He wondered if it was the end for him, but then the water receded for a brief moment. He was able to open the door and get out of the car, and he desperately ran up a thicket-covered hill. Looking back down, he saw his car engulfed by a second round of tsunami waves.

Suzuki’s home was completely destroyed by the waters, but all of his family evacuated and survived. His job contract with the prefectural government had originally been set to expire at the end of March, and he was planning to start working at an electronic parts factory in the prefecture from April, but that job offer was cancelled because of tsunami damage to machinery at the factory. Suzuki then moved from an evacuation shelter to public housing that was being offered in a bid to promote employment. He had been doing volunteer work to remove debris since the start of April.

“Without income, I won’t be able to support my family,” Suzuki said. He applied for one of the jobs in the city employment project. Construction firms commissioned by the city government are hiring people affected by the quake and tsunami for a daily allowance of 7,200 yen. The city government received 279 applications in the first recruitment round, which went from April 13 to 16, and 110 people were hired.

Suzuki was given a helmet and work clothes after receiving safety instructions at a training session. He has not done any construction work before. He has some worries about the riskiness of the work, but he said, “Although as one person my power is small, I want to do as much to help as possible.”

(Mainichi Japan) April 24, 2011

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About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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