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Mixed verdict on temporary school construction after tsunami, mainichi shinbun, 5/29/11

OTSUCHI, Iwate — Construction of a prefabricated school has begun here to accommodate pupils and students of five elementary and junior high schools that were destroyed by tsunami and fires caused by the March 11 earthquake.

The temporary school is being built on the schoolyard of Otsuchi-kita Elementary School, whose first-floor ceilings were submerged by the tsunami.

Otsuchi-kita is one of the five devastated schools out of seven elementary and junior high schools in the Iwate town. The four others were Otsuchi, Ando and Akahama elementary schools and Otsuchi Junior High School.

Some parents expressed concerns about the new school under construction because of its proximity to the ocean but others welcomed it, saying they want their children to be close to home rather than studying at distant schools.

The March disaster destroyed or damaged 133 elementary and junior high schools in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, and many of the schools are now forced to hold classes at non-school facilities.

Construction of the prefabricated school at the Otsuchi-kita schoolyard began on May 16 in front of the two-story school building.

The town scrambled to secure classrooms for about 740 pupils and students after the natural disaster. Town school officials assigned pupils from Otsuchi-kita and two other elementary schools to Kirikiri Elementary School in eastern Otsuchi; first-year and second-year students of Otsuchi Junior High School were sent to Kirikiri Junior High; third-year students of Otsuchi Junior High went to Otsuchi Senior High School; and Otsuchi Elementary School pupils were dispatched to the Rikuchukaigan youth house in the neighboring town of Yamada.

Opening ceremonies were held on April 20. The town operates 21 school bus services because of the spread-out set up, and it takes some children up to an hour to get to school.

Furthermore, hastily-arranged classrooms are inconvenient. Some classrooms are loosely partitioned and noise from nearby rooms bothers teachers and students. Some students cannot attend physical education and music classes due to a lack of classrooms for those subjects.

The city searched for an ideal place to build the temporary school but flat land is in short supply as the town is situated by the coast and mountains.

City officials chose the Otsuchi-kita Elementary School as the construction site because it has enough space and is situated farthest from the ocean among the five destroyed schools. Just behind the school are mountains, which will make it easy for children to evacuate should another big tsunami strike.

But the elementary school is located in a submerged zone. A town education board official said, “It may not be the best place but we have to quickly prepare an educational environment for our children.”

The town will build a temporary elementary school (18 classrooms) and a junior high school (12 classrooms), each two stories high, and a gymnasium by July to accommodate the pupils and students from the five schools.

Reactions from parents and guardians are mixed.

A 66-year-old woman whose granddaughter is a sixth-grader said, “If possible, I want the town to build the school on an elevated spot. But I understand there is no suitable land.”

A 34-year-old local woman who has sixth-grade and first-grade daughters said she welcomes the new school. “My daughters sometimes got sick because of long bus rides, and I was worried about sending them to a distant school,” she said.

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Quake victims offered easy-to-build wood structures, asahi 5/26/11

A maker of wooden furniture and houses is proposing easy-to-build temporary structures with the warmth of wood for people displaced by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Oak Village, based in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, has produced a prototype that can be put up in one day and costs roughly the same as prefabricated temporary housing.

It says the A-framed wooden building offers quake victims a feeling of warmth not found in traditional prefab structures.

The company plans to present the design to local government officials in areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

A company official said when the temporary housing is no longer needed, the wooden components can be reused in regular housing construction.

link to story: http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105250168.html

Weak Emergency-Housing Demand Leaves Builders In Lurch, nikkei, 5/20/11

TOKYO (Nikkei)–Demand for temporary housing for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake has proved far smaller than expected, spelling big trouble for house builders, which have been building up their stocks of construction materials at the government’s behest.

The three disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have reduced their housing estimates by a total of about 20,000 units. At its peak, the total estimate was for 72,000 units — 30,000 for Miyagi, 24,000 for Fukushima and 18,000 for Iwate.

Based on the peak figures, Infrastructure Minister Akihiro Ohata urged the housing industry to prepare for putting up 62,000 temporary homes by the end of August. The remaining 10,000 units were expected to be secured by the prefectural governments through orders to local builders or imports.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged to make sure that temporary housing would be provided to all those in need by the Bon festival in mid-August.

Not according to plan

Infrastructure Minister Akihiro Ohata, center, meets with housing industry executives on April 5 to urge them to ramp up supplies of temporary homes. In Mid-may, however, he told them that demand was smaller than expected.

But the demand situation has changed, as a growing number of people in these prefectures have started repairing their houses, relocating outside the devastated areas or expressing a desire to move into government-supplied commercial housing for disaster victims.

On May 16, Ohata told Takeo Higuchi, chairman of the Japan Federation of Housing Organizations, and other industry executives that the number of makeshift houses actually needed could be smaller than originally thought. Higuchi did not protest, but he indicated the possible need for “discussions” between the industry and the government, saying many companies had already purchased construction materials to meet the government’s request.

Soon after the meeting between Ohata and the industry executives, it was revealed that the estimates by the three prefectures had been slashed by 20,000 units. The cuts did not exactly come as a surprise for many in the industry — as they had heard the ministry say it would be difficult to meet Kan’s promise due to delays in securing the necessary land — but the revision has nevertheless created a big headache for homebuilders.

Already committed

Two weeks before the meeting between the minister and the industry representatives, one industry organization involved conducted a survey of member firms, asking them about the situation concerning their procurement and production of necessary materials for temporary houses. The survey found that the production of materials for a large number of houses had already been finished.

The decline in demand has provoked anxiety among housing companies about the risk posed by excessive stocks of materials. Their concern stems from the fact that the government does not regard the demand estimates by the prefectural governments as representing formal contracts for the construction of temporary houses. The way the Infrastructure Ministry sees it, such a contract is established only when the government specifies both the construction site and the number of units.

The ministry is also playing down the significance of Ohata’s request, saying it was only a call to prepare supplies.

Prefab firms in danger

Misawa Homes Co. (1722) President Nobuo Takenaka said a cut in the order quantity would hurt the company. Misawa has already bought the materials for building 1,500 temporary houses, in line with the government’s orders, according to Takenaka.

The expected reduction in the actual number of temporary homes built will deal an even bigger blow to makers of prefabricated homes, which have received larger orders and are generally on a weaker financial footing than large housing companies such as Misawa.

— Translated from an article by Nikkei staff writer Shogo Nakatani
link: http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110520D20HH269.htm

Quake damage, nuclear crisis force 169 schools to relocate or close, 5/16/11 mainichi

SENDAI — A total of 169 public schools in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures have been forced to temporarily relocate or close in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami due to damaged facilities and radiation fears, local officials said Monday.
About 85 percent of the affected schools, or 145 of the total, have been able to restart lessons by borrowing classrooms at other schools or utilizing facilities at schools that had closed down before the disaster, according to regional board of education officials.
The remaining 24 schools have been shut in Fukushima Prefecture, where the government has designated no-entry zones centering on a 20-km radius from the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex. Area students had to transfer to other schools in their current respective evacuation zones.
Some schools with large student populations have had to split up to conduct lessons at several campuses. Other, smaller schools have had to share one location. With many facilities being flooded with students to double or even triple the normal capacity, places like gymnasiums and music rooms are now being used as classrooms, teachers said.
In the city of Fukushima, most schools are conducting their physical education classes indoors amid concerns about radioactive substances in the air and soil, municipal education board officials said.

from Kobe

today was the 1st presentation/event organized by ‘from Kobe’, a group of architecture students at Kobe U. today’s theme was volunteering, and people shared experiences from different points of view, including students who had volunteered during golden week, and feature presentation by T San, who experienced receiving volunteers into his neighborhood after Kobe.
I love ‘from Kobe’.

random notes:

“we don’t need ‘ganbaro!’ any more, we need action”

“lots of volunteers went for golden week, most left”

“we are students, so we have time”

“for needs assessment, 1st: what are the problems? try to listen to the smaller voices”

“go to the field, then think about what we can do THERE; for students, now is a chance to learn!”

“what to bring? candy to give to kids; people at evacuation center don’t have anything to do”

after the Kobe earthquake, there were 1,200,000 volunteers.
this time, 640 square km area, 400,000-500,000 volunteers

In Kobe, the most serious volunteers came first. they searched for their own work. found a place not getting any supplies, and fixed it!

We are in Kobe, so________?
We are in Kobe, so we can meet like this, and know that we need to GO THERE.

We can say that because we experienced damage in Kobe.

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  • RT @jacremes: The monument Durham folks toppled last night was erected 59 years after the Civil War. It's like neo-Nazis building a Hitler… 2 months ago