Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday that the Japanese government is ready to speed up construction of housing facilities for people who lost their homes in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, as well as those displaced by the ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster. It has been over two years since the twin disasters hit the Tohoku region of the country, and there are still a big number of evacuees who have no homes to call their own.
“I would like to help speed up construction of private homes and public housing for evacuees,” Abe told reporters during his visit to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, one of the three prefectures hardest hit by the disaster. This was the Japanese prime minister’s third trip to the prefecture since he assumed the premier’s office in December last year. He has regularly visited the disaster-hit areas, making trips to the northeastern region Japan, which includes Iwate, every month. During his visit to a junior high school in the prefecture, the Prime Minister Abe was briefed by teachers on how almost all elementary and junior high school students in the city survived the disaster. “I have become aware of the importance of education on disaster prevention,” he told reporters after the briefing. “I want to promote this experience nationwide.”
Two years after the Fukushima nuclear plant, thousands of evacuees are still displaced and have no idea if they will be able to go home anytime soon. The evacuees have been pressuring the Japanese government, asking if it will be able to deliver on its clean-up goals. Of the 160,000 people who were displaced during the 2011 disasters, almost one third are still living in “flimsy” temporary housing and with no clear direction as to how and where they should start their permanent lives. Social workers are reporting there has been a marked increase in domestic conflicts, alcoholism and illnesses as a result of lack of exercise. The number of people who have died from diseases due to prolonged evacuation has reached 1,539 as of August this year, almost matching that of the Fukushima Prefecture death toll from the tsunami which is at 1,599.