By Miyoko Ishigami (with photos)
KESENNUMA, Japan, April 29 (KUNA) -- Fifty days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, signs of recovery are emerging in this heavily-hit northern Japan, with banners showing "Ganbaro, Tohoku (Don't give up, northeastern Japan !" here and there.
At a gymnasium being used as a shelter for about 700 survivors in the coastal city of Kesennuma, people keep moving out almost everyday to start a new life in a new place.
According to Kesennuma Gymnasium Director Shigeyoshi Hashimoto, the shelter was once jammed with 1,500 evacuees who lost their houses. "Although everyone is anxious about uncertain future, people are gradually digging their way out this catastrophe," Hashimoto said. "Remaining evacuees are also keen to search for houses and jobs to live on their feet. They just want to get back normal life." In tsunami-ravaged Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, about 2,000 of 74,000 residents died from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, while some 5,700 people are still staying at various emergency shelters.
"Today, a family of four left this gymnasium, as they decided to rebuild life at relatives' house in neighboring Ichinoseki City," said an official running the shelter. "Though the situation has become much better, the biggest problem for the evacuees in the shelter is a less-privacy life," he explained.
The recovery process of Kesennuma, 390 km north of Tokyo, moves forward after a18-square km area in the city was totally submerged by a massive tsunami, Superintendent of Education Board Katsumi Shirahata said.
Self-Defense Forces personnel accelerate clean-up of jumbles of debris, including burned ships, houses and cars in the hardest-hit area, where once the bursting of all the 23 seaside oil storage tanks made it into "a sea of fire." Miyagi prefectural government has been working on constructing temporary housing for 800 households in total, of which 104 prefabricated units are expected to begin welcoming new owners next month.
In the prefectural capital Sendai, express trains and flights linking with Tokyo, and hotels are easily booked up with businesspersons from insurance and construction companies as well as volunteer workers.
A woman in her 50's, who is living in the Kesennuma Elementary School emergency shelter with her seven family members, said her house and hair salon on the Pacific coast were washed away by the tsunami. "After hearing evacuation warning, we jumped in a car and head to higher ground with only clothes we were wearing. Unfortunately, some of my neighbors lost their lives. I had never imagined such a big tsunami could attack us," she recounted how they survived the onslaught of the tsunami.
"We lost everything and don't know how long it will take for us to return to normal life. But luckily none of us were injured, and a smile of my 10-year daughter gives me a hope of recovery as she goes to school everyday, even from this shelter." At the shelter, a group of pupils take a initiative to cheer up adults through regularly issued handwritten colorful newspaper called "Fight !" One of its editions reported, "We were happy to take a bath for the second time since evacuation. Thank you !" Another edition said, "There will be a concert by music band "Dolphins" today. Please do not miss it." About 28,000 people were confirmed dead or remained listed as missing in northeastern and eastern Japan following the twin natural disaster, and some 130,000 people are still taking shelters across the regions.
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