September 19, 2014

The Hiroshima Syndrome has been posting the ever-increasing payouts to Fukushima evacuees on a regular basis since 2013. At the time of this writing, the roughly 75,000 mandated Fukushima accident evacuees have received $42.57 billion (USD) in personal and property compensation. Nearly all of this has been “loaned” to Tepco by the government. On November 18th, Japan Times reported that 17,000 temporary housing units were built for the 75,000 mandated Fukushima evacuees. (1) More than 30,000 evacuees live in government-sponsored temporary units within the Prefecture. Another 20,000 live in rented apartments in other prefectures, the cost of which is part of what each person receives in compensation. Thousands more live with family and friends, which their monthly stipends of $7,500 per person easily covers.

Thousands of Fukushima refuges have been told they can return home because decontamination is complete. But, roughly 75% refuse to repopulate. Why? Because the money spigot is turned off one year after returning home. If they choose to remain estranged, the cash keeps flowing. In fact, Tokyo has extended the compensation period to March, 2021. (2) Further, the first report of resentment towards Fukushima evacuees has emerged. (3) Numerous Iwaki residents say the payouts to the evacuees living it the city have been frittered away on luxury cars and locally-labeled “disaster relief mansions.” One Iwaki resident says, “The food the evacuees eat and the clothes they wear are different. They can afford it from their compensation funds. They have time and money to go gambling since they’re not working.” In the city’s Takaki District, a poll shows that 2/3 “feel envious of their [evacuee’s] compensation.”

On the other hand, less than half the sum paid to Fukushima evacuees has been given to the more than 200,000 Tsunami refugees, mostly in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. Plus, there seems to be no resentment toward tsunami refugees because their living conditions and income levels are not worthy of contempt. The refugees get a few hundred dollars each per month from Tokyo. The current statute on the government stipends runs out next March. It is possible the compensation period will be extended, but no-one is counting on it. About 90,000 of the refugees live in cramped, prefabricated housing units. Others rely on the kindness of family and friends.

In addition, the rate at which new housing is being built in the two prefectures is alarmingly slow. In Iwate Prefecture, the prefectural and municipal governments planned 5,946 public housing units. However, only 754 units (12.7 percent of the total) had been completed by the end of July. Housing construction has been delayed due to difficulties in buying land, and local governments balancing the limited funds between all recovery projects. The Miyagi Prefectural Government had planned to build 15,561 housing units for disaster victims by the end of fiscal 2015, but it is likely to take one to two more years to build the first 3,800.

Meanwhile, only 1,600 units in Fukushima Prefecture are behind schedule, but are expected to be complete by early 2015. (4) Clearly, the prefecture getting the most media attention, both inside and outside Japan, is getting the most government support with recovery! It becomes irksome when the hard, cold facts are faced – more than 300,000 lost everything due to the tsunami are treated much worse than the 75,000 people of Fukushima who were ordered to leave their still-intact homes because of ridiculously low public exposure limits. In other words, the 300,000 whose homes are actually gone get much less support than the 75,000 whose homes are hypothetically unlivable for a few years (at most).

Tens of thousands of the younger Iwate and Miyagi tsunami refugees have given up hope and moved to other parts of Japan. (5)  Local governments planned to help disaster victims rebuild their homes through collective relocation of communities to higher ground, and/or raising the ground level in devastated shoreline areas. The number of pending requests to rebuild on government-reclaimed land in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures has dropped more than 20% in the last 18 months. One municipality experienced an 80% drop-off. Of the more than 25,000 stand-alone residences planned to replace the homes destroyed or swept away on 3/11/11, the number has plummeted to a bit less than 20,000….and the majority are way behind schedule. Many former homeowners are permanently moving into disaster recovery housing complexes. Others are simply leaving for other parts of Japan. Iwate University professor Junichi Hirota said, “The longer the decisions on relocation sites and land reclamation are delayed, the larger the number of disaster victims who will abandon their efforts to rebuild their homes will be.”

In other words, most the tsunami victims are woefully under-compensated and want to return home, but can’t. Reluctantly, many have decided to leave the region out of frustration. Meanwhile, most of the Fukushima evacuees who can return home choose to stay away and prosper from the government-mandated handouts.


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