More than 89,000 evacuees are still living in prefabricated temporary housing in northeastern Japan three and a half years after the 3/11 disaster.
The hard-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima reported that as of the end of August, 89,323 people who lost their homes to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami or were displaced because of the nuclear accident are living in 41,384 temporary housing units in 49 municipalities.
The temporary housing units were only built to last two years.
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, it took five years for all residents who moved to temporary accommodation to relocate to permanent housing.
But in the Tohoku disaster, it will likely take longer for the evacuees to find places to settle permanently.
The Reconstruction Agency said the construction of permanent housing units to accommodate evacuees and preparation of land plots for disaster-affected communities will be completed in just 18 municipalities by the end of fiscal 2015, the fifth anniversary of the disaster.
As for the remaining 31 municipalities, local governments will extend the use of temporary housing on a yearly basis as long as permanent housing to accommodate the residents remains short, the Cabinet Office said.
In Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which has the largest number of households who lost their homes to the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, the city government plans to construct housing units and prepare land plots to accommodate 7,660 households.
But only about 53 percent will be completed by fiscal 2015. The land development projects to create housing lots to accommodate the disaster-affected communities will not be completed until fiscal 2017, city officials said.
“We have no choice but to maintain the temporary housing until then,” a city official said.
In 13 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, the completion of permanent housing for evacuees is nowhere in sight as local governments are still in the process of negotiating with landowners to obtain land plots.
In areas around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, decontamination work and recovery of infrastructure lag behind schedule, and it remains unknown when all evacuees can return home.
In addition to the 89,000 people in temporary housing, there are about 90,000 people who live in 38,000 public and private housing units that are rented by local governments on a temporary basis in the three prefectures.
The government had set the duration period for temporary housing at two years, and the units are becoming increasingly decrepit. Many residents have complained about health problems caused by stress from living in cramped temporary housing.