Local governments are scrambling to improve insulation in temporary housing units for Great East Japan Earthquake evacuees amid some of the coldest weather experienced in a decade.
The average temperature in northern Japan between Jan. 21 and 29 was 1.4 degrees lower than the average for the Jan. 21-31 period in normal years and the coldest this century, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
By Jan. 30, the Iwate prefectural government had received 480 reports of frozen water pipes in temporary housing and was trying to install insulating sheets beneath the floors of all temporary housing units in the prefecture.
The Miyagi prefectural government said it would start similar work on about 21,600 temporary homes in its area later this week.
One Miyagi official admitted they had been caught unprepared. Local workers had prepared for the cold by winding electric heating wires around water pipes, but had “never imagined that a cold snap would stay with us for such a long period.”
The Gas Bureau of the city of Sendai has received complaints about cuts to gas supplies after water seeped into gas pipes damaged by the quake and froze inside, an official said.
Many of those worst affected are elderly evacuees.
On Jan. 12 temperatures plunged to minus 10.6 degrees in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, freezing the water pipes in the temporary accommodation of Tae Kikuchi, a 71-year-old evacuee. Because many houses were affected, plumbers were only able to deal with the problem the next day.
Ever since, she has been leaving her taps running after 11 p.m. each night.
“The condensation annoys me the most,” said Genichiro Komukai, 69, who lives in temporary housing in the Taro Mukaishinden district of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.
In mid-January, his entrance door froze shut because of condensation. He has added insulation, but still has no way to prevent condensation on windows and walls.
Another wave of cold air is expected to sweep northern and eastern Japan from Jan. 31, and is expected to stay over the area for several days.
The average temperature in eastern Japan between Jan. 21 and 29 was 0.9 degree lower than the average for the Jan. 21-31 period in normal years. It was 0.7 degree lower than the norm in western Japan.