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Temporary housing in Fukushima reused in rain-hit western Japan

Special temporary wooden homes used by people affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011 are being relocated to Soja in the western Japan prefecture of Okayama, recently hit by torrential rains. (Kyodo)

OKAYAMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Special temporary wooden homes used by people affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011 are being relocated to a western Japan city recently hit by torrential rains as a traditional building technique used in their construction enables their reuse.

In early August, carpenters in Soja, Okayama Prefecture, began constructing the temporary housing using a method called "Itakura," in which thick boards of solid cedar are put together to create roofs, walls and floors without using nails.

Architect Kunihiro Ando, who was overseeing the relocation of the homes from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, said the method is often used in building Japanese shrines and traditional rice storehouses.

The 70-year-old head of Japan Itakura House Association said it allows people to dismantle the buildings easily and keeps the temperature and humidity stable inside, while enhancing the buildings' resistance to fire and rot, making them capable of lasting 100 years.

The Itakura method emerged in disaster-prone Japan as people are frequently forced to relocate their homes due to earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.

"The method can be used in future disasters too," said Ando.

The temporary homes had been used for seven years and were being dismantled in Iwaki when torrential rains hit a wide area of western Japan in early July, killing over 220 people in floods and mudslides, mostly in Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures.

The city of Iwaki offered the housing to Soja for free, enabling the western city to cut back on costs as well as time needed for constructing temporary homes.

The wooden homes are slightly larger than regular prefabricated housing and are equipped with a loft. A total of 44 households are scheduled to start living in the relocated housing by early October.

As of Tuesday, more than 2,000 people remained in shelters, with about 1,200 of them in Okayama Prefecture, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Ando said many of the homes hit by the rain disaster are unable to be renovated or reused as their wooden parts are rotten due to water seeping into insulators and chipboards.

"Areas frequently hit by disasters must construct houses by taking the need to rebuild into account," said Ando.

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