Japan Quake Survivors To Get New Homes

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In Japan's Miyagi prefecture, construction crews will soon begin putting up pre-fabricated homes for tens of thousands of people displaced by this month's tsunami and earthquake. Almost 250,000 thousand people are living in emergency shelters. Many of them will be able to move into the new units by next month.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

In Japan's Miyagi Prefecture, construction crews will soon break ground. They're putting up pre-fabricated homes for tens of thousands of people displaced by the tsunami and the earthquake. Almost a quarter of a million people are now living in emergency shelters. NPR's Doualy Xaykaothao reports that many of them will be able to move into the new units by next month.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: In Sendai City, workers clear a field that will soon be home to at least 100 families. Not far away is a chain supermarket, a department store, plus two elementary schools. There's also big machinery still clearing debris left by the magnitude 9.0 quake.

Hideharu Suzuki wears a white helmet, a thick grey jacket and working boots. He will help manage the construction of this one location, Asuto Nagamachi, which is about 20 minutes from the center of town.

Mr. HIDEHARU SUZUKI: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: Traditional Japanese homes are wood, but Suzuki says these units will be steel, pre-made outside of Sendai City, and brought here.

Mr. SUZUKI: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: Ten square meters by five square meters, he says.

In other words, small units; two or three rooms, with a kitchen, gas stoves, toilets and baths.

Youki Suda of Daiwa Li says they are similar to pre-fab homes made for survivors from the powerful Kobe and Niigata earthquakes.

Mr. YOUKI SUDA: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: The layout is about the same, he says. And these units are durable, livable, enough for people's basic needs.

(Soundbite of wind blowing)

Yumi Shimada agrees. She's strolling past this field where workers are taking measurements and didn't know it was going to be home to victims of the disasters that have crippled Japan for the last 18 days.

Ms. YUMI SHIMADA: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: She explains that these aren't big spaces, but it gives people some privacy, which evacuees don't have now. And living on one big tract of land, this brings together a community of people with shared experiences. It will help many people, she nods.

Over at Sendai City Hall Center, volunteers are answering many calls about housing. This manager, Reay Anuma(ph), says displaced people are earnestly in need of information.

Ms. REAY ANUMA: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: A lot of people lost homes in Sendai, so lifeline is the critical thing - water, electricity, gas, but we're getting more calls about housing, she says.

Ms. ANUMA: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: She adds, callers are asking what the requirements are to get into pre-fabricated homes; how much it costs, if anything, where to register and when they can move in.

Youichi Izumi answers those questions. He's with the Miyagi prefectural office. He says they will manage the construction of more than 1,100 pre-fabricated homes, at 13 locations, and basically...

Mr. YOUICHI IZUMI: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: Anyone who has been displaced by either the earthquake or the tsunami are qualified, he says, but the elderly and people with children will have priority. And those with physical disabilities will need to be considered too, to outfit units with the appropriate support, he adds.

But moving into a pre-fabricated home isn't easy. Yukie Onodera is from Minami-Sanrikucho on the coast. She says she, her husband, son and daughter lived in a beautiful traditional Japanese house like the ones you see in samurai movies.

Ms. YUKI ONODERA: (Through Translator) I lost photo albums of my children, clothes, school things, photo of me and my husband, everything.

XAYKAOTHAO: But she may not have a choice on where she and her family live. The loss was just too great.

Ms. ONODERA: (Through Translator) If possible, I would like to live in higher area in Minami-Sanrikucho, together with my four family members; my hometown, that's where I want to live.

XAYKAOTHAO: For now, she sits and waits, receiving little information from the government.

Ms. ONODERA: (Through Translator) I am here. My husband and son are with my cousins. I am so irritated as I am not doing anything. I want go home to try and find anything that's left of my home.

XAYKAOTHAO: Doualy Xaykaothao, NPR News, Sendai City.

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