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7 years since katrina, hurricane isaac

seven years ago, i had just come back to seattle after a summer studio in taiwan, with a stop in japan. since i had been traveling, i hadn’t seen any news during the lead up to katrina, and when i saw it on t.v. for the first time, new orleans was already underwater. if was my first night back in seattle, and my friends and i were eating fish and chips and drinking beer at the ‘local,’ the bar near my house, and it was on the t.v. how new orleans was like a bowl under sea level filling up with water. my friends were repeating the news stories about people shooting at helicopters. so it had already entered the stage when the news coverage was spreading some questionable things, but it was also the moment where it seemed like the t.v. reporters, when faced with the truth of a government who had failed it’s people, were ready to tell this truth, or coudn’t help it. i still feel this was a big media moment, looking back. the reporters were people, and as people, were outraged.

in the weeks that followed, i wondered what i could do as an architecture student, how to volunteer, if i could be helpful or useful, and how? i dd volunteer, and that feeling of wondering how to be helpful never really went away.

last year after 3.11, watching the tsunami and devastation on television for several days straight was a somewhat similar feeling. in some ways it was harder to know what to do, and in others it was very very clear. in the last 7 years i have gotten much deeper into the world of disasters, and that feeling of wanting to contribute something is still there, and while it probably is what keeps me going, it’s not always clear, or straightforward, or easy.

i watched isaac approaching new orleans and the mississippi gulf coast, from afar, online, in a completely different timezone, on the other side of the world *googling new results, checking twitter, refreshing, repeat.* it’s completely unsatisfactory, in terms of information. it’s great that there are no deaths so far (except for 1 guy who feel out of a tree) and i hope it stays that way. and it’s great that the new levee system in new orleans held, and that the president is a better man than the one 7 years ago, and has already declared a state of emergency that will allow federal funds to be used in Louisiana and Mississippi. and that the overal official system seems to be about a million times more on the ball.

but for the folks whose houses went underwater, in plaquemines parish, especially, it doesn’t matter, they still lost everything. and knowing what i do now, all i want is to go volunteer in in the gulf coast. and i can’t. even though i will be there to do a survey next month.

unfortunately, japan is a very disaster-prone country. and after the big hanshin-awaji earthquake in kobe in 95, there have been several earthquakes even before 3.11 last year. and in japan there are some “professional volunteers,” people have been working in disaster response after kobe, and then after subsequent disasters. they know they stuff, they know what to do, how to provide for emotional as well as physical needs of disaster victims. and last year, after 3.11, when they heard about about earthquake and tsunami, they headed off to the diaster area before there was really any information available. i think now i understand their feeling more. because somehow (and i am the opposite of a patriotic person) seeing a disaster happen in my own country, in an area that already suffered so much, taps into something different emotionally.

i want to go there so badly, but i can’t. and no matter how many times i rationalize it, or someone else rationizes it for me, sometimes being a researcher/academic does not feel like enough.

but i can recommend a few places, if you want to donate. and i can tell you, that donating money intelligently (to grassroots folks, not to the red cross!) is often better and more effective than spending time and energy to go volunteer in person.

the st. bernard project has been repairing houses for folks who need it for the last 7 years, and they are still going strong: for donations!

all hands also got their start responding to katrina in biloxi, and there are already planning their isaac response, here:

if you know of good info or resources, let me know and i would be more than happy to share them.

introducing…the disaster recovery student network!






like everything i’m working on these days (or at least it feels that way) this is a work in progress, but i want to introduce the disaster recovery student network website!

here’s what it looks like:


it’s just the very beginning of an idea that has been rolling around in the back of my head for a while, for a central location to share student activities and projects related to disaster and recovery…

so…if you want to collaborate, please let me know and i want to hear from you!! you can get in touch here, or over on the disaster recovery student network website. thanks.


Schools in Fukushima town reopen after 1 1/2 years, mainichi, 8/27/12

HIRONO, Fukushima — Public elementary and junior high schools here reopened Aug. 27, a year and a half after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and the town fell under the government-designated emergency evacuation preparation zone.

The town held a joint reopening ceremony at Hirono Elementary School in a bid to encourage former town residents to come home nearly one year after the town’s evacuation zone designation was lifted. Attending the ceremony were kindergartners and students and their parents.

But the number of students is now only around 20 percent of pre-disaster enrollment levels due to prolonged life at evacuation centers and lingering fears of radiation. The number of elementary school students totaled 65, or 23.6 percent of the total before the nuclear disaster, and that of junior high school students came to 31, or 18.5 percent of the total.

Even after this town was declared safe and extricated itself from the zone in September last year, local officials rented rooms at schools in neighboring Iwaki for Hirono students until the end of the first semester.

Chika Oide, a 14-year-old second-year student at Hirono Junior High School who commutes from temporary housing in Iwaki, says some of her classmates belonging to an academy inside the J-Village national soccer training center in her hometown are not returning from evacuation in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture. But she says she wants to assist in holding a successful cultural festival this autumn.

Half of Tomioka households hope to return to town, fukushima minpo, 8/23/2012


Half of the households of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, wish to eventually return to the town after being forced to evacuate due to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, according to the interim results of a survey by the town released on Aug. 22.

The Tomioka town government sent questionnaires to 7,150 households on July 6 and 3,150 households, or 44.1 percent, replied. The questionnaires covered such items as whether they intend to return to the town, how long they can wait until they return and where public housing should be built to be rented out to those who lost their homes in the March 2001 earthquake-tsunami disaster that crippled the nuclear power plant.

Of the respondents, 807 households, or 26 percent, said they will select places they live by themselves and wait until they can return to the town, while 761 households, or 24 percent, said they will live in public housing for those who lost homes due to the disaster and wait until they can return to the town.

Meanwhile, 1,005 households said they will not return to the town, accounting for 32 percent, little changed from 34 percent in the survey last December.

Of the 761 households who said they will live in public housing for disaster victims, 479 households cited places around the city of Iwaki as a possible site for such public housing, accounting for 63 percent, the biggest portion. This was followed by areas in the town of Tomioka with low radiation doses cited by 109 households, or 14 percent, and places around the city of Koriyama cited by 100 households, or 13 percent.

When asked about desired attributes of candidate sites for public housing for disaster victims, 584 households cited satisfactory services by hospitals and welfare facilities, 504 houses cited the provision of houses they can live for a long period of time, and 442 households cited easy-to-access places.

Of those who replied they will wait until they can return, 791 households, or 50 percent, the largest portion, said they can wait for up to six years.

The town compiles the final results of the survey by the end of August.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

No-Go Status to Be Lifted for Naraha Town, jiji, 8/9/12

Fukushima, Aug. 9 (Jiji Press)–The town of Naraha in Fukushima Prefecture will have its exclusion zone status lifted at midnight Thursday, after it was imposed in the wake of last year’s nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
It will be downgraded to a zone with annual radiation levels under 20 millisieverts, where temporary visits will be allowed and the central government will make preparations for the lifting of the evacuation order.
The government will begin full decontamination work within this month. It plans to complete decontamination of the area by March 2014.
Among 11 municipalities around the plant, Naraha is the fifth to get a revision under the government’s new evacuation zoning.
Excluding the southern industrial section, almost the entire town is within the exclusion zone set after the March 11 accident last year. Forbidden to enter the zone, most of approximately 7,600 residents are living as evacuees in the nearby city of Iwaki.


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