The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan has been carrying out a project to construct “container houses” as temporary shelters until housing can be provided. Last week, they erected 10 new container houses in the town of Onagawa, in Miyagi Prefecture. Of the 3,800 homes that once stood in Onagawa, only 800 remain, and the town’s shopping district, which looked out on the sea, was completely destroyed by the tsunami. Even now, three months after the disaster, there are only two shops open in Onagawa—a convenience store and one other small shop. AAR’s new container houses are therefore going to be used as combined living and retail space. With help from the chief priest and staff of the Osaki Hachiman Shrine in Sendai, prefab construction experts from Tohoku Grader Co., and young volunteers from the Onagawa Chamber of Commerce, the “Container Village” was completed in two days. The Italian-made containers have bright blue roofs and floors, making them a cheery and much-welcomed sight in Onagawa. By July, they will be filled with a food shop, clothing shop, electronics shop, flower shop, and so on, and many people are expecting the site to become a hub for the locals to gather and exchange information.
With support from Japan Platform, NICCO is carrying out a project to send construction experts to Kesennuma and Rikuzentakata to determine whether damaged buildings and homes are structurally safe and to consult on the necessary repairs. One of the primary objectives of this project is to prevent secondary harm from occurring when the disaster victims and volunteers enter these potentially unsafe buildings. NICCO found that although the disaster volunteer centers in these towns were trying to confirm the safety of locations before they sent out volunteers, the local government staff that were conducting these safety checks usually did not have the necessary architectural knowledge to accurately assess safety. Local residents have therefore questioned the advice they were receiving about whether their homes and buildings were safe to enter and whether or not they could be rebuilt. By providing assessments by and consultations with impartial, outside experts, it is hoped that the project will help local residents repair their homes and businesses faster.