Seven and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, but nearly 60,000 people still remain in evacuation and more than 5,600 people are living in temporary housing because of the quake, devastating tsunami and the triple core meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant.
According to the government's Reconstruction Agency, about 58,000 people still remained in evacuation as of August, although their number declined by about 15,000 during the past six months. As many as 5,623 people were living in prefabricated houses in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, as of the end of August.
The construction of public housing for victims of the disaster is 96.5 percent complete, with 29,124 units built out of a planned 30,178 in those three prefectures as of late July. The achievement rate is 91.1 percent for Iwate and 98.4 percent for Miyagi. In Fukushima, the figure is 96.3 percent for evacuees from the nuclear accident.
Around the TEPCO nuclear power plant that spewed out a large amount of highly radioactive materials from the melted cores, 11 municipalities received evacuation orders from the central government. Although the orders were lifted in 70 percent of those areas by the spring of 2017, a total of seven cities, towns and villages still have so-called "difficult-to-return" zones with high radioactivity. Even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, the ratio of actual to registered residents is about 20 percent.
The central government intends to phase out temporary housing in Iwate and Miyagi by fiscal 2020 when its designated reconstruction and revitalization period will end, but the timing will be delayed to fiscal 2021 or later in Fukushima. The preparation of land plots where people affected by the disaster can build their own houses is 90.6 percent complete in the three prefectures.
As of Sept. 10, the number of those killed by the 2011 disaster stood at 15,896, and 2,536 people remained missing. The Reconstruction Agency says 3,676 people in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, had died of causes related to the disaster, as of the end of March this year.
(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Hyakutake, Ishinomaki Local Bureau, and Toshiki Miyazaki, Fukushima Bureau)