Yomiuri Survey: Reconstruction Still Underway in Some Municipalities 13 Years After Great East Japan Quake

Reuters file photo
People pray towards the sea to mourn victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to mark the 12-year anniversary of the disaster in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture on March 11, 2023.

Thirteen years after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, eight of the affected municipalities still have no idea when reconstruction work will be completed, according to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

The Yomiuri Shimbun surveyed the mayors of 42 municipalities located along the coast of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, as well as around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

With two years left until the end of the government-set Second Reconstruction/Revitalization Period through fiscal 2025, 12 mayors answered that reconstruction on the tangible side of things, such as seawalls and road maintenance, will not be completed by the end of fiscal 2025. Of those, eight said they have no prospects for when the work will be completed.

The written survey was distributed between January and February to mayors of 12 municipalities in Iwate Prefecture, 15 in Miyagi Prefecture and 15 in Fukushima Prefecture. All of them responded.

Mayors who answered “they have no prospects” are those from Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, as well as Shinchi, Minami-Soma, Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka and Naraha in Fukushima Prefecture. All these municipalities except for Kesennuma and Shinchi are in areas affected by the nuclear disaster, where evacuation orders were issued following the incident.

In Kesennuma, seawall construction work is delayed, while Shinchi has seen delays in the redevelopment of a vacant site after houses and buildings were relocated.

The Miyagi prefectural government is proceeding with a project to build four seawalls in Kesennuma, but labor shortages and soaring material costs are slowing things down, according to a prefectural official.

Other municipalities said they are experiencing delays in the development and maintenance of water and sewer services, farmlands and other projects.

Four mayors of Yamamoto in Miyagi Prefecture and Tamura, Hirono and Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture answered that their reconstruction work is expected to be completed in fiscal 2025 or later. They said reconstruction has been delayed by more than five years from the initial plan in Yamamoto, followed by three to five years in Hirono and one to two years in Tamura and Kawauchi.

On the other hand, 26 mayors answered that their planned reconstruction projects have been already completed. Mayors from four municipalities, including Kawamata, Katsurao and Iitate, which are within the area affected by the nuclear disaster, said that reconstruction work is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2025.

Asked about the fading of memories of the 2011 disaster, 35 mayors answered they recognize that it is a problem.