East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) announced July 28 it will resume regular train runs Dec. 10 on another stretch of the Joban Line damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. To be reopened is a 22.6-kilometer portion between Soma Station in Soma city, Fukushima Prefecture, and Hamayoshida Station in Watari town, Miyagi Prefecture.
It follows the resumption of train services on a 9.4-kilometer stretch of the line between Odaka and Haranomachi stations in Minamisoma city on July 12 when an evacuation order was lifted in most parts of the Fukushima Prefecture city hit by the tsunami-caused nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The Soma-Hamayoshida link will thus connect Minamisoma’s Odaka district to the Miyagi prefectural capital Sendai by rail.
The Soma-Hamayoshida stretch includes an 18.2-kilometer route between Komagamine Station in Shinchi town and Hamayoshida, with tracks for 14.6 kilometers of the route moved inland from an area close to the coastline. The Shinchi Station structure that was washed away by the tsunami is being rebuilt at a location about 300 meters southwest. The route was initially scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2017 but the date for resumption has been moved up following faster-than-expected progress in land purchases.
The last suspended stretch, from Tatsuta Station in Naraha town to Odaka Station, will remain closed for the present due to its location close to the crippled nuclear plant but JR East plans to reopen it gradually by the end of fiscal 2019 on March 31, 2020.
Regular train service resumed on a 9.4-kilometer stretch of East Japan Railway’s Joban Line in Minamisoma city on July 12 after being suspended for five years and four months since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The reopening of the railway line between Haranomachi and Odaka stations was timed with the day’s lifting of an evacuation order in most parts of the city.
A ceremony marking the resumed service was held at Haranomachi Station ahead of the first train’s departure at 7:15 a.m. Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai and other officials delivered speeches at the ceremony, and boarded the train together with passengers who had long waited for trains to start running again.
The inaugural train arrived at Odaka Station around 7:30 a.m. Local residents cheered as a crowd of passengers disembarked. Nine ordinary train runs are operated a day on northbound and southbound lines each.
original article: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002023691
The Yomiuri Shimbun ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi — Local residents in the Okawa district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, have decided to call for the municipal government to preserve the school building of Okawa Primary School, where 84 children, teachers and other school employees died or went missing in tsunami following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, as a remainder of the disaster.
The decision was made on Friday at a meeting of the Okawa district restoration council, comprising local residents and others. The council plans to soon submit a petition to the municipal government to turn the area into a park, leaving the school building as it is.
The council invited about 400 households in the district to a meeting held on March 8 and conducted a questionnaire survey of the 126 attendees on how to deal with the school building. Nearly half, or 57 people, responded they wanted to preserve the whole building, 37 said they wanted to dismantle it, three hoped to partially preserve the building and the rest turned in a blank survey.
“Although some people said the number of respondents was too small, we respected the result,” said Mikio Otsuki, 72, chairman of the council.
People’s opinions are divided on preserving the school building. While some ask for it to be preserved as “a place that conveys the terrors of tsunami,” others call for it to be leveled it as “it brings up painful memories.”
ONAGAWA, Miyagi Prefecture–After a four-year wait, trains are up and running the full length of the restored JR Ishinomaki Line, which was ravaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
The first train left Onagawa Station at 6:12 a.m. on March 21. The first incoming train arrived at 7:30 a.m., greeted by a throng of residents waving flags used to celebrate large catches by fishing boats.
The entire line extends 44.7 kilometers through Miyagi Prefecture, eastward from Kogota Station in Misato to Onagawa Station via Ishinomaki Station in Ishinomaki.
The 2.3-km stretch through the last two stations of Urashuku and Onagawa had remained unconnected after tsunami up to 20 meters high swept the tracks away.
Major facilities, including the Onagawa station building and town government office, as well as 70 percent of all households, were destroyed, and 827 people, accounting for 8 percent of the town’s population, perished.
Though all services on the line were halted due to the disaster, the line’s operator, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), partially restarted operations in April 2011.
Service on the rest of the line resumed in March 2013, with the exception of the final two stops.
Urashuku and Onagawa stations were reopened to passengers after the completion of work to elevate land in the town in case of a future tsunami. The downtown area where the latter station is located was raised by as much as 15 meters in some areas.
The station’s new building, which was designed to resemble the silhouette of a black-tailed gull spreading its wings, cost 850 million yen ($7 million) to build.
With service now available on the entire line, trains will be making a total of 11 runs a day.
For students who entered Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, they will attend classes in prefabricated buildings for six years until graduation.
The school, located near the sea, was swallowed up by the ensuing tsunami, although all the 350 students were safely evacuated to a hillside.
Unosumai is among the many elementary and junior high schools damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that have experienced delays in rebuilding.
The large number of public works projects currently ongoing in the disaster-hit areas have resulted in a rise in the costs of construction materials and a serious shortage of workers.
Priorities have also been placed on large-scale projects, such as construction of roads ordered by the central government. Subsequently, reconstruction of school buildings has been put on the back burner.
At Unosumai Elementary, 182 students are studying in prefabricated buildings, as reconstruction of their school has yet to be started.
As prices of concrete and labor costs of workers have jumped in a short period of time, the costs of the reconstruction plan worked out in spring 2014 ballooned. As a result, the central government did not approve the plan.
In a process that took six months, the Kamaishi city government decreased the construction budget by making changes, including scaling back the school buildings. It also introduced a special bidding process that selected contractors from the design stage.
Despite those efforts, the school buildings are not expected to be completed until 2017, which means classes will continue in the prefabricated buildings.
“Though the school buildings are prefabricated ones, children are enjoying their school lives,” said Chizuko Kobayashi, 41, whose three daughters are attending Unosumai Elementary School.
The school bus that transports children from temporary housing facilities to the school passes through districts that were devastated by the tsunami. Because of that, when a tsunami warning is issued, students sometimes have to stay at the prefabricated school buildings until late at night.
“I hope that the school buildings that children can attend safely are constructed as early as possible,” Kobayashi said.
According to the Iwate prefectural government, of the 15 schools damaged by the tsunami, Funakoshi Elementary School in Yamada completed reconstruction of its school buildings in spring 2014.
The school buildings of Takata High School in Rikuzentakata are also scheduled to be completed late this month.
However, students in the remaining 13 elementary or junior high schools in five municipalities are still studying in prefabricated buildings or using buildings of former schools.
The reconstruction of Otsuchi Elementary School and Otsuchi Junior High School in Otsuchi, Takata-Higashi Junior High School in Rikuzentakata, and Okirai Elementary School in Ofunato are likely to be delayed for six months or more as municipal governments have failed to secure contractors in the bidding process.
In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, 15 elementary and junior high schools are still using prefabricated buildings or other facilities. It is taking time for many of them and two public high schools to choose new sites for their schools or complete reconstruction of their buildings.
Completion of the new Yuriage Elementary School and Yuriage Junior High School in Natori are likely to be delayed until April 2018. A relocation site for Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki also has yet to be determined.