‘We can’t leave our neighbor cities without helping them.’

By Kikki - Last updated: 木曜日, 5月 19, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

[From Ofunato city-my stricken home town]

-Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Disaster-

Wooden temporary houses built in Sumita Town


Temporary houses for families who lost their homes were built within about two weeks after the tsunami in Sumita town in Iwate. Missions to observe these houses from all over Japan visit the town one after another.

Sumita town locates just next to stricken cities such as Rikuzen-takata and Ofunato. ‘We can’t leave our neighbor cities without helping them.’ The town disregarded the state rules and made an arbitrary decision on building them.

Its preposterous measure devised to deal with the great disaster gives a lesson to every local government.

In a community about 20 km far away from the center of Rikuzen-takata, there are wooden one-story houses. ‘These houses are built for families in Rikuzen-takata and Ofunato, who lost their houses. Material is a Japanese cedar produced in Sumita town.’ Mr. Kazuhiko Sasaki (66), the president of local housing company, explained. Although, floor plan is typical 2DK type or two rooms and a combination dining-kitchen, the houses look warmth of wood on the outside.

The town left unhurt from the disaster and no family lost home. However, the town mayor, Kinichi Tada (66), asked the local house maker to build temporary houses three days after the disaster. The town mayor has had an idea of wooden temporary houses using with locally produced Japanese cedar based on disasters occurred frequently in domestically and abroad including the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. And the disaster this time occurred.

Mr. Sasaki had to complete drawing up plans for a house in a great hurry.

About 30 million yen for 100 temporary houses is invested by the town mayor’s decision before approval of the municipal assembly. He didn’t wait for suggestion from state or Iwate prefecture and decided the matter arbitrarily.

Under the national disaster relief act, temporary houses are usually constructed after grasping of the situation in stricken cities, towns and villages. ‘We are not sure that temporary houses constructed under my decision will be subsidized by the government or not. However we took the view that relief for the victims should be the first consideration.’ The town mayor said.

A part of wooden temporary houses were completed in the end of March when a few stricken cities and towns were about to start construction. It took only two weeks since the disaster occurred. Already 30 houses were completed and victim families moved into them. Remaining 70 houses will be completed by the end of May. Actual cost per one house was 2,500,000 yen which is lower than average prefabricated temporary house in other stricken areas. Because, houses were constructed by local housing company in using timber produced in the town. And all cost for temporary houses is expected to be subsidized by NPO.

On the other hand, a large number of complains poured in to the Ministry of Health and Welfare that is in charge of temporary houses. They complained on slow progress of prefectural measures.

The ministry finally decided that every prefecture can consign construction of temporary houses to cities and towns and gave a notice to each prefecture.

Mr. Takanobu Tsujiyama, the guest professor of the graduate school of Chuo University, who is an expert of local autonomy, pointed out. ‘It is very important to make the best decision at a site on crises, such as great disaster, and never being restricted by the regulations. And the state and prefecture must learn from these cases and needs to reexamine rules and roles.’



View Sumita town in a larger map

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