SENDAI–Five months after the Great East Japan Earthquake, a number of evacuees remain reluctant to move into temporary housing units, leaving some municipal governments unable to close evacuation centers in Miyagi Prefecture.
According to local officials, about 7,300 disaster survivors are still staying at shelters in the prefecture.
Of 15 municipalities in coastal areas hard-hit by the disaster, eight maintain evacuation centers. Of the eight, five municipalities have been unable to decide a firm date when the centers will close.
Although the central government had planned for all evacuees to move into temporary housing by the Bon holiday period in mid-August, this target will apparently not be met.
Shelters already have been closed in Sendai and six other municipalities in the prefecture.
Among the eight municipalities where shelters are still open, the Ishinomaki city government plans to close shelters at the end of September, while the Minami-Sanrikucho and Matsushimamachi town governments plan to close shelters at the end of this month.
But the three cities of Kesennuma, Tagajo and Higashi-Matsushima as well as the two towns of Onagawacho and Yamamotocho have not decided when to close shelters.
The Higashi-Matsushima city government had set a date to close shelters, but withdrew it, apparently because some evacuees have not decided where to relocate.
In Ishinomaki, with about 2,600 evacuees, many school facilities in the city have been used as shelters.
An elderly woman who is living in the gymnasium of the city-run Ishinomaki Middle School said, “There are only rice paddies around temporary housing units.”
“There is no hospital I know well and no shops around there,” she added.
The woman won the lottery for one of the units, but refused to move into it. “I’m not demanding too much, but I think I can manage to live as long as I stay here [in the shelter].”
An official of the Ishinomaki city government said, “If we delay closing the shelters, it’ll affect school events and the club activities of students.”
Minami-Sanrikucho has about 2,100 evacuees living both in and out of town.
About 200 of them are staying at the Minami-Sanriku Hotel Kanyo, which has been used as a shelter since shortly after the disaster.
Shigeichi Watanabe, 63, a spokesman for the evacuees there, said, “Most of our evacuees are expected to move to temporary housing units by the end of August, but about 50 people are likely to stay here.”
Unlike at shelters, where food and daily items are provided for free, residents are required to take care of themselves in temporary housing.
Watanabe will move to a temporary housing unit with his family, but he expressed the feelings of other evacuees, saying, “Many people are saying they don’t want to move out of shelters.”
The Minami-Sanrikucho town government is considering closing its 35 shelters outside of the town at the end of August and asking those evacuees to relocate to two shelters in the town.
A town official said, “We have to persuade evacuees who are reluctant to move to temporary housing units even if it takes a long time.”
In Iwate Prefecture, all shelters are set to be closed by the end of this month, local officials said.