Yamada, Iwate Pref. — Residents of the last four evacuation shelters in Iwate began moving out Wednesday as officials prepared to close all public shelters in the prefecture before the end of the day.
Iwate is the first to do so among the three prefectures hit hardest by the March 11 quake and tsunami.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 17 people were still living in the shelters, all located in the town of Yamada. At the March 13 peak, 54,429 evacuees took shelter in Iwate, with a maximum of 399 shelters available on March 19.
Most public shelters in Fukushima Prefecture also closed Wednesday, while 3,930 people were still in 143 shelters in Miyagi Prefecture as of Tuesday, according to the prefectural governments.
Thousands of Iwate evacuees have moved into temporary housing comprised of 12,683 makeshift apartments and 3,856 private housing units.
Reiko Numazaki, 57, was the last person to move her belongings out of a high school gymnasium in Yamada where at one point 1,277 evacuees took shelter. About 80 volunteer workers helped the last group of evacuees leave.
“I’m anxious about my life going forward, as it is uncertain if my husband can remain in the fishery business,” Numazaki said.
“I hope to move into public housing soon.”
Evacuees also began moving out from the central community center in Yamada.
Two private facilities in the town, where seven evacuees are still living, will serve as shelters until early September after the town office hands over the operation to private management, it said.
School repairs going slow
Sendai — Rebuilding is complete or will soon be finished for only six out of 82 public schools in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures that were severely damaged by the March earthquake and tsunami, according to local boards of education.
With summer vacation over and more than 90 percent of the quake-hit schools still unusable, most local students are still being forced to study in other schools or public buildings.
Reconstruction has not even started at many of the damaged schools as city planners are still pondering how to rebuild their areas, including whether to relocate facilities.
Kesennuma Koyo High School in Miyagi, for instance, is still in a shambles. Water submerged the building up to the fourth floor after the disaster struck.
Its students have been dispersed, temporarily taken in by three other local schools. By November they will all move to a new temporary facility, but it is yet to be decided whether their school will be rebuilt at its original site or moved elsewhere.