The population of 39 municipalities ravaged in the 2011 disaster shrank by 92,000, or 6.7 percent, over four years, a rate more than eight times faster than Japan’s overall population decline, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.
Of the 42 local governments surveyed, only the Miyagi prefectural capital of Sendai and its two neighboring municipalities, the town of Rifu and Natori city, saw their populations increase following the disaster.
The decrease in the remaining municipalities included residents who were among the nearly 16,000 people killed when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku coast on March 11, 2011.
The Asahi Shimbun compared the number of resident registrations in 42 cities, towns and villages in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures on March 1 or Feb. 28, 2011, shortly before the disaster, with those on Feb. 1 or Jan. 31 this year.
The municipalities included coastal areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami and those in Fukushima Prefecture that were evacuated after the accident unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The coastal town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, had the largest population decline, of 29.1 percent. The town still lacks employment opportunities and necessary infrastructure, forcing residents to continue moving out, an Onagawa official said.
The internal affairs ministry estimates Japan’s overall population shrank by 0.8 percent during the four-year period. The average rate of decline in the 40 prefectures that saw shrinking populations was 1.7 percent.
Ten municipalities surveyed had population declines exceeding 10 percent. Six are located along the coasts of Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, including Rikuzentakata, Otsuchi and Minami-Sanriku, whose urban centers were destroyed by the tsunami.
Reconstruction of housing remains nowhere in sight in many of these municipalities.
The remaining four municipalities are in Fukushima Prefecture, including the town of Futaba, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant. These municipalities have areas designated as “difficult-to-return zones,” where high radiation levels will likely prevent residents from returning for a long time.
Sendai and the two nearby municipalities saw a combined population increase of more than 30,000 people over the four years. Municipal officials cited an influx of residents from other disaster-affected areas and reconstruction projects that have drawn many workers from around Japan.
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.
link to orignal article: http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=481
[Translated by The Japan Times] The number of nuclear evacuees dying from deteriorating health caused by refugee life is still growing even though four years have passed since the unprecedented calamity that struck on March 11, 2011.
As of March 4, the deaths of 1,867 people in Fukushima Prefecture had been recognized as related to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, surpassing the 1,603 who are deemed to have been killed there directly by the quake and tsunami.
Nearly 120,000 people in the prefecture are still living as evacuees, stuck in stressful environments.
Among the three prefectures hit hardest— Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi — Fukushima has a particularly high “disaster-related death” ratio of 54 percent compared with “direct deaths.” By municipality, Minamisoma led with 469 related deaths, followed by Namie at 342, Tomioka at 291, and Iwaki at 130.
In Iwate and Miyagi, by contrast, the ratio of disaster-related deaths is only around 9 percent for each. Iwate had 450 related deaths versus 4,672 direct deaths, while Miyagi had 909 and 9,621, respectively.
Many suicides have been reported in Fukushima amid the growing despair caused by the prolonged evacuation.
A death is recognized as disaster-related if it is deemed by a panel of doctors, lawyers and other experts to have a causal relationship with the quake, tsunami or nuclear disaster.
For each such death, ¥5 million in condolence money is paid to the family’s main breadwinner, and ¥2.5 million to others.
But objections from relatives of dead people who are not recognized as disaster victims by the panel are rising as the evacuation drags on.
According to Fukushima Minpo’s tally of data from 24 municipalities, there have been at least 46 objections, including 19 in Iwaki and 13 in Minamisoma.
Lawyers say the kin of those not recognized are frustrated because there are no clear standards for determining who should be recognized as having died from disaster-related causes. They fear that the number of objections filed will increase as it will be even more difficult to prove a causal relationship between a death and a disaster as time passes.
Some are calling for setting up a mechanism to pay out condolence money specifically for deaths related to stress caused by the nuclear disaster.
Meanwhile, municipalities hosting large numbers of evacuees are improving efforts to visit residents in temporary housing to check on their health.
As of the end of January, about 14,600 people from the town of Namie were still living in temporary housing in the prefecture, while some 6,400 others were living as evacuees elsewhere.
Twenty-five counselors from the Namie municipal welfare office are making routine visits to such housing units to check on people living alone so solitary deaths can be prevented.
The town has also placed 30 staff in 10 prefectures around the country, including Kyoto and Fukuoka, to provide support for residents who fled Fukushima.
The staff visit the homes of such people individually and listen to them to ease the loneliness of living far away from home.
They also hold gatherings for the evacuees so they can socialize and talk with one another. In Chiba Prefecture, such efforts have led to residents themselves holding tea parties for displaced people in the neighborhood.
“It’s difficult to look after people scattered around in such a vast area, but we want to continue providing support for each and every one of them,” said one of the Namie welfare office staff.
In Minamisoma, prefectural officials and the municipal welfare office staff work as a team on home visits.
Prefectural officials make the rounds of temporary housing units on weekdays, while the welfare office staffers pay daily visits to both temporary and rented units, as well as to permanent public housing units for evacuees.
The city and Minamisoma police have also set up a “three-day rule” under which welfare staff report to the city and police if no physical meeting is reported for three days from residents of the homes they visit.
The rule was established after a number of elderly living alone were found dead last spring, sometimes days or weeks after the fact.
While some initially felt the frequent visits were intrusions, others began making their own rounds to check on neighbors, municipal officials said.
The city and police have also established a network with newspaper and milk delivery personnel to routinely check on the elderly.
In November, a milk delivery person found an elderly woman collapsed in a public housing unit, saving her life.
At 7 a.m. in the fish market in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, fewer than 10 brokers could be seen waiting for the start of the day’s trade. The opening buzzer was heard, but they all left as no fish had been landed.
Devastated by the tsunami that followed the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the town suffered serious damage to its main industry — the fisheries business.
The Otsuchi fishing port was also severely damaged, with the ground level of its wharf having sunk due to the disaster. Repair work at the port was completed last autumn, and fishermen who lost their boats were given new ones.
However, fish catches at the market have yet to see a recovery. The number of fishermen operating in the area declined, in part because some of them lost their lives in the disaster.
But the main reason is that many fishermen who returned to the industry after the disaster now take their catch to larger ports.
“As there’re only a few brokers in Otsuchi, bid prices don’t rise in auctions,” said a 52-year-old local fisherman. He drives for an hour to take his catch to Miyako Port in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.
As of the end of February, the total volume of catch traded in the Otsuchi fish market in fiscal 2014 was 1,575 tons — equivalent to 40 percent of the volume from fiscal 2010.
With poor hauls attracting fewer brokers for the auction, fish prices are declining further, creating a vicious circle.
In October, to increase fish hauls at the market, the Otsuchi municipal government began subsidizing fuel expenses for fishing boats delivering a catch worth more than ¥500,000.
By the end of last year, there had been adequate restoration at 93 percent of the ports in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures for fish to be landed, while the number of fishing boats back at sea reached 85 percent of those in operation before the disaster.
With the recovery under way for the operation of ports and boats, next on the agenda is how to effectively make use of the facilities.
The local pelagic fisheries cooperative association in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, began a group fishing system in 2012 to reduce costs by fishing collaboratively.
Under the system, a group of boats fish jointly for shark and tuna in nearby waters. However, due to the declining price for shark meat and rising fuel costs, the association remains in the red.
The annual deficit per boat totals ¥30 million to ¥40 million. The government covers 90 percent of the loss, but that will end in April.
To achieve further streamlining, the association has stepped up its cooperation with seafood processing firms to develop products such as shark meat nuggets.
Fisheries cooperative associations in disaster-hit areas have been grappling to find a way out of the situation, but, in reality, they have yet to fully identify a future vision and a path to their revitalization. They are approaching a crucial stage for survival.
link to original article: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001976491
Across three prefectures, where a total of 20,000 hectares of agricultural land was damaged by the disaster, about 70 percent of the farmland had been restored by the end of last year and is now ready for the next step.
Following a fall in the rice price, subsidies for farming households that agree to a policy of reducing acreage for rice cultivation have also been cut, making the environment for farmers even more severe.
Under such circumstances, making extra efforts to streamline is unavoidable.
One new strategy is to expand the usable size of farmland by combining plots on existing land.
Last spring, a branch of the farmland intermediate management organization was established in each prefecture.
The organization mediates in the borrowing and lending of farmland to promote and intensify land use.
Among the three prefectures, only Iwate Prefecture is expected to exceed a goal of 2,000 hectares in total to be lent in fiscal 2014.
In Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the total land area to be lent via the organization is expected to meet only half of the goal
Memories of communities lost to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami are being brought back to life through the magic of 3-D imagery.
A team led by University of Tsukuba associate professor Akinobu Murakami and Tokyo Metropolitan University assistant professor Eiko Kumakura is creating a digital archive that uses 3-D images to reproduce neighborhoods that were swept away during the March 2011 disaster.
The team is recreating six coastal communities in the Tamaura area of Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, through various means, including the memories of those who once lived there.
“The fading of shared memories such as scenery and festivals is a grievous loss to a community’s continued existence,” Murakami said. “We want this archive to lead to the creation of their next place of residence.”
Murakami and his team started off the project using maps and pre-earthquake satellite imagery to identify such things as houses, fields, trees and other natural features. They examined common shapes and layouts in the neighborhoods, then reproduced the communities as best they could in virtual space.
The team started holding workshops with the former residents in spring this year, using their feedback to make the virtual world more accurate.
“I think there was a fire watchtower here,” said one resident. “The shape of the roof is wrong,” said another.
“There was a vending machine here,” according to a former resident.
The team is using the three-dimensional modeling software CityEngine to create the computer-generated world so users can feel like they are actually walking down the streets of the communities and experience what they were like before the disaster struck.
The team plans to release the archive online next year and wants to expand the project to other communities in the disaster zone.