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Editorial: Make good use of infrastructure developed since great earthquake

  • March 11, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 2:06 pm
  • English Press

It has been nine years since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, and local memorial ceremonies have been canceled due to the novel coronavirus.


A total of 22,000 people died or went missing in the disaster or died later in connection with it. We would like to express our heartfelt condolences.


In the disaster-stricken areas, the number of residents living in temporary housing complexes has decreased to the 900s, while the completion rate in reconstruction housing and residential land development is approaching 100%. The Sanriku coastal road, which runs from Miyagi Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture, will be completed next fiscal year.


It can be said that the development of infrastructure in the disaster-stricken areas, using ¥32 trillion in national funds, has reached its final stage.


The town of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture has completed an eight-year reconstruction plan. Despite suffering heavy casualties and a 40% decrease in the population, a new shopping district was built on elevated land in the central part of the town. The district is crowded with locals and tourists on weekends.


This is an example of how the rapid consolidation of residents’ opinions led to the creation of a compact city.


On the other hand, there are some local governments that are not making full use of the infrastructure that has been developed.


In Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, vacant lots are still noticeable. More than 60 hectares of residential land has been developed in the tsunami-swept city center since a large amount of soil and sand were moved into the area to elevate the land. But less than half of this area is actually being used.


According to a survey conducted last autumn by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry on land readjustment projects in the three disaster-hit prefectures, about 35% of such land was unused. In many cases, landowners living in places of refuge have given up trying to rebuild their lives on the land they used to live on because it took so long to complete the projects.


It is necessary to consider ways to make use of this land, such as creating places where a wide range of generations can interact.


Provide continuous support


In addition to the “hardware” aspect, it is also necessary to improve the “software” aspect.


Many people are still suffering from what they went through during the disaster. According to a clinical psychologist who has been caring for children since the disaster, there is a woman who still blames herself for an incident. She told the psychologist, “My dad was taken by the tsunami when he went back to pick up my stuff.”


Another woman confided her worries to the psychologist, saying, “I was pressed to rebuild our life and I took it out on my child out of frustration.” It is important to provide continuous support, such as offering consultation services in home visits to disaster victims, in cooperation with local governments and private welfare organizations.


In recent years, efforts have been made to pass down memories of the disaster. In the city of Rikuzentakata, a tsunami memorial museum has been established, exhibiting fire engines and notes from people who experienced the disaster. In Kesennuma and Higashi-Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, damaged school buildings and stations have been preserved as reminders of the earthquake.


It is hoped that as many people as possible will learn about the disaster to prevent its memories from becoming fading.


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