Numerous Survivors Stay in Half-Destroyed Homes
One month has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and while relief has now begun to meet demands on the ground, survivors staying outside official evacuation centers are still not getting all that they need.
It is estimated that roughly half of survivors have chosen to stay in their own homes, while many others have remained outside official evacuation centers by taking refuge with friends or relatives. AAR JAPAN is committed to reaching these evacuees, who often find themselves overlooked by the general relief effort.
Efforts to Reach the Neediest
AAR JAPAN received word of thirty survivors taking refuge in their homes or with friends in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture. Upon learning that they were hard-pressed for food and daily necessities, AAR JAPAN delivered supplies including rice, fermented soy bean paste, oranges, milk, toothbrushes, soap, clothes, side dishes, stove burners and high-pressure washers on Monday, April 11th, 2011.
With seven beaches in a row, Shichigahama was once a gathering spot for surfers coming from both within Miyagi Prefecture and without. The tsunami washed away the entire town, taking everything from the fishery facilities to private houses, post offices, convenience stores and restaurants. Farmland has also been submerged under seawater.
We came across a number of exhausted survivors cleaning their mud- and seawater-covered homes, carrying belongings they had picked up from among the rubble. Moving heavy furniture is a strenuous job for the elderly and for those living alone, and we spotted a few young local men carrying a large closet from an elderly person’s half-destroyed house. When we talked to people staying in friends’ or relatives’ less-damaged houses, one man said, “They have been feeding me, and I’m sorry to be a burden.”
Junko Sato lived close to the port, and when the tsunami hit, the first floor of her house was flooded. She has finally cleared all the mud after a month of hard labor, during which time she stayed at her sister’s house. Nevertheless, mud and seawater still remain under the floor, and the wooden house will rot if left as it is. Apprehensive of the future, she said, “I’ve already asked a business to take care of it, but I wonder when I can move back in.”
Hachiko Itoh lived in the hard-hit Yogasakihama area of Shichigahama. The first floor of her house was damaged to such an extent that it’s incredible that it has not collapsed to the ground. When we spoke to her, Hachiko was gathering memorabilia while using a towel to wipe the small piece of floor that survived the disaster. Her family has asked her to leave the site alone out of concern for her safety.
The survivors continue to face significant difficulties whether in homes or in evacuation centers. When we announced the successful delivery of our supplies, we were told that, although many organizations had been contacted for help, AAR JAPAN was the first to reach the Shichigahama area.
AAR JAPAN will continue to provide prompt and vital aid to those who are not being reached by the general relief effort.