At least 1,436 evacuees from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster have died while living in temporary housing units during the past six years, it has been learned from a questionnaire given to municipal governments.
In January and February this year, the Mainichi Shimbun sent questionnaires to 42 coastal municipalities in the three prefectures hit heaviest by the disasters, asking for the number of people who had died while living in temporary housing units, and received answers totaling to 1,436. By prefecture, there were 312 deaths in Iwate, 444 in Miyagi and 680 in Fukushima. Six municipalities -- Otsuchi and Miyako in Iwate Prefecture, Kesennuma and Higashimatsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, and Kawamata and Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture -- did not have statistics.
In addition to people who died in the hospital, the numbers include people who died in temporary housing and people who died alone. According to the National Police Agency, 230 evacuees in temporary housing units have died alone in these three prefectures.
Temporary housing units are expected to continue to be in use until fiscal 2020, when the national government plans to mostly wrap up its programs for reconstruction from the disasters. Around 53,000 temporary housing units were constructed since soon after the March 2011 disasters, and the number of evacuees living in the structures peaked at 116,615.
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, around 48,000 temporary housing units were built, and five years later, in January 2000, they stopped being used. It is said that 233 people died alone in these structures, but it is not known how many people died in total while living in the temporary housing units.
When asked when they expect to no longer have evacuees in temporary housing, the latest date given among those who offered a timeframe was the city of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, at "fiscal 2020." The next longest were the towns of Yamada and Otsuchi, at March 2020, followed by the town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, at January 2020. All cited delays in the preparation of land for reconstruction housing and the construction of that housing as reasons for the late dates. Six municipalities -- Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture and Namie, Okuma, Iitate, Kawamata and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture -- said they don't know when they might no longer be using temporary housing for evacuees.
Taku Sugano, director at the Sendai-based organization Personal Support Center, which works to help evacuees in temporary housing rebuild their lives, says, "Together with speeding up the construction of reconstruction housing, a support system is needed that can be used to find out what is stopping each evacuee from moving to their next residence, and to help them with things like receiving livelihood protection payments."