Japan’s Post-Quake Reconstruction Begins With Prefab Housing

Japan’s Miyagi prefecture will begin building 1,110 temporary homes tomorrow as regional authorities seek to resettle more than 243,000 people displaced by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Construction will begin in 13 cities and towns, including the prefectural capital Sendai, with the first phase taking about a month to build, said Masanori Takahashi, a spokesman at Miyagi’s department of public works. Building has already started in neighboring Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, which along with Miyagi were the hardest-hit by the disaster.

Refugees living in shelters are suffering from shortages of heating fuel, food, clothes and sanitary items more than two weeks after the disaster. At least 10,668 people have died and more than 135,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Influenza is spreading at some of the 383 shelters in Iwate, authorities there said yesterday.

“There are too many challenges to list, but the priority is to provide housing that has all the necessities to live a normal life,” Miyagi’s Takahashi said today by phone.

The prefecture has requested 10,000 housing units from the Japan Prefabricated Construction Suppliers and Manufacturers Association, he said. Daiwa House Industry Co., Sekisui House Ltd. and Misawa Homes Co. are among the industry group’s members.

Fukushima, Iwate

Fukushima prefecture, where radiation leaks triggered evacuation of areas near two nuclear power plants, began building temporary homes on March 23 and targets 14,000 units. A further 5,000 will be provided by the private sector and 1,000 public housing units will be added, Tadahiro Nouchi, head of Fukushima’s housing and building division, said today by phone.

Iwate plans to build 8,800 temporary homes, a number that is likely to rise, said Takato Nishio, a spokesman for the prefecture’s housing and building division. Construction of 36 units in four cities began March 19 and will be completed by the end of this week. Building will begin in two more towns tomorrow, he said.

Residents will be allowed to live in the homes rent-free for at least two years, according to Takahashi and Nouchi. Units will include living rooms, kitchens, toilets, baths, lighting, air conditioning, curtains and gas stoves, Takahashi said.

Some Go Home

Evacuees from the disaster numbered 243,049 as of 3 p.m. today, including 85,039 in Miyagi, 86,313 in Fukushima and 43,879 in Iwate, according to the National Police Agency in Tokyo.

More than 12,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged in Iwate, along with more than 10,000 in Fukushima and 8,000 in Miyagi, police said.

The number of evacuees in Miyagi fell from a peak of about 300,000, as restored utilities allowed many people who still have houses to go home, a spokesman for the local disaster control headquarters said yesterday.

Authorities still have to feed many of those who have returned, and they may need to provide basic necessities for people in shelters for two to three months, said the spokesman, who asked to be identified only by his last name, Tokairin. With food in short supply, relief workers are struggling to provide people with just two meals a day, mostly consisting of rice balls and bread, he said.

In Iwate, medical teams faced difficulties accessing some areas to deliver medicines to people suffering from influenza, Naoto Wakuishi, a prefectural spokesman, said yesterday. People with the flu were being separated from others in shelters to limit the spread of disease, he said.

While roads have been cleared and electricity is returning gradually, essential utilities still haven’t been restored in Iwate, Wakuishi said.

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