Terms for Secondary Evacuation: Take Steps to Help Quake-Affected People Find Accommodations

The period of time that evacuees from the Noto Peninsula Earthquake can stay at hotels and inns serving as secondary evacuation facilities is coming to an end. Sufficient consideration should be given to ensure they do not have trouble finding a new place to stay.

About 5,000 people have evacuated from affected areas in Ishikawa Prefecture to hotels and inns in the city of Kanazawa and hot spring resorts. The prefectural government envisions they can stay until February through the end of March. This is because the Hokuriku Shinkansen line’s new extension between Kanazawa and Tsuruga stations is scheduled to open in March, and the number of tourists is expected to increase.

The prefectural government has proposed the following options for relocation: temporary housing, which is currently under construction; moving to units that the prefectural government will rent in private housing; or repairing and living in one’s own damaged house.

The prefecture is building 4,000 temporary housing units, but there are more than 7,000 evacuees seeking to move in. Because there is not much flat land and it is difficult to secure places on which to build temporary housing, it is said that construction cannot keep up with needed units. The prefecture should accelerate the construction of temporary housing through such measures as building two-story houses and using privately owned land.

Many of the victims likely do not want to move too far away from their homes if they are going to move into housing units rented by the prefecture as temporary housing. It would be desirable to secure apartment units or other facilities that are as close as possible, in less affected areas within the prefecture or in neighboring prefectures.

Families with school-age children may be hesitant to change the schools that children will attend after relocating. The circumstances faced by disaster-affected people vary widely. The central and local governments need to listen to their requests and respond to them carefully.

Hotels and inns serving as secondary evacuation facilities for disaster victims have had reservations canceled one after another following the earthquake. Accommodation facilities that struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic have high hopes regarding the extension of the Shinkansen. There are fears that housing evacuees for a prolonged period may interfere with their original business operations.

However, given the feelings of the evacuees, who have finally regained some calm, isn’t there a way to balance the promotion of tourism and housing evacuees?

Three inns in the city of Komatsu in the prefecture, where the impact of the disaster was limited, have said they will extend their hosting of evacuees until around July. A hotel in the city of Kaga has decided to provide an employees’ dormitory as a secondary evacuation facility.

Other lodging facilities are urged to be as flexible as possible. Secondary evacuation facilities will be needed for evacuees at least until running water is completely restored.

Can the possibility of hiring evacuees, if they want that, part-time at secondary evacuation sites be explored? Extending support to lodging facilities that continue to accept secondary evacuees is one idea for the central and local governments to consider.

Inns and hotels in neighboring prefectures such as Fukui and Toyama are increasingly donating a portion of their sales to the heavily affected Noto region. It is important to build momentum for mutual support for the restoration of the entire Hokuriku region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 25, 2024)