“If someone doesn’t do something, we’ll be stuck.” Thoughts of those supporting the operation of primary evacuation centers where 7,000 people still remain: Tokyo Shimbun TOKYO Web

2024-02-22 07:00:00

A month and a half has passed since the Noto Peninsula earthquake. In the disaster-stricken areas, an increasing number of people are moving to secondary evacuation shelters such as hotels and inns, but according to Ishikawa Prefecture, more than 7,000 people remain in primary evacuation shelters such as school gymnasiums. There are people who support the operation of evacuation centers for the sake of the remaining people and the community.

◆I returned home to care for my mother and was affected by the disaster.

“If someone doesn’t manage it, we’ll be stuck.” Senshu Motokaji (71), who is involved in the operation of the evacuation center set up at the former Kamikuromaru Elementary and Junior High School in Wakayama-cho, Suzu City, says: Although he lives in Yokohama, he had returned to his parents’ home when the disaster struck. His family in Yokohama has urged him to return, but he remains.

Chishu Motokaji, who does many jobs at the evacuation center, including managing relief supplies, at the former Kamikuromaru Elementary and Junior High School in Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Honkaji lived here until junior high school. He was working in Tokyo as an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but returned to his parents’ home last July to care for his mother, who is in her 90s and had been living alone. At the end of November, her mother entered a nursing care facility in Gifu Prefecture, and she planned to return to Yokohama once she had finished cleaning up her house.

Her parents’ home was partially damaged and they fled to an evacuation center. She decided to stay behind to run the evacuation center, as there were many people she knew, including her classmates from junior high school. She said, “I just wanted to help. I thought there was something I could do.”

◆Confirming the safety of the elderly Some people shed tears of joy

Work at evacuation centers is diverse, including cleaning, hygiene management, and managing relief supplies. At its peak in early January, there were 109 people, but most have returned to their homes or taken secondary evacuations, and there are now 13 people. Caring for home evacuees also became an important task.

They also check on the safety of elderly people who have difficulty coming to evacuation centers while distributing supplies to their homes. When Mr. Honkaji visits, he says, “It’s been a long time since I talked to someone,” and some people cry with joy.

Her worried family in Yokohama “often scolds her.” Even so, I would like to stay until the water supply continues to be cut off and my life becomes unstable. “Until the evacuees are able to take care of themselves.” (Go Ishii)

◆My home is a “red paper”: I am operating my home while evacuating with my children.

7 a.m. at the evacuation center at the former Kabuto Elementary School in Sora, Anamizu Town. Tomoyuki Takao (47)’s morning job is to hand out bread and drinks to the people staying there.

He himself and his family take shelter at the evacuation center, where he works as a staff member in charge of the Kurosaki village in the town’s Kabuto district. He ascertains the current number of people and informs the Self-Defense Forces who operate the soup kitchen and local people. The windows of the gymnasium where evacuees spend their time will be opened and closed many times, and precautions will be taken to prevent infectious diseases. Looking back on the month and a half since the earthquake, he says, “It went by in the blink of an eye.”

A workshop with cracked floors in Kou, Anamizu Town, Ishikawa Prefecture

The roof of the storehouse next door to my house has shifted, and red paper has been put up on it, marking it as “dangerous” in an emergency risk assessment. Her wife, Keiko (30), continues to take care of her home by doing laundry at the nearby river and cleaning up. While Takao is managing the evacuation center, her eldest daughter Miyu (6) and son Kazuki (4) are being looked after by her mother Yoko (72).

◆No prospects for the family business of making miso

He has been making miso with his father Yoshio (77) and Yoko at a workshop near his parents’ house. It is sold at local supermarkets under the name “Kabutomiso.” Normally, the busiest period is from January to March, but the workshop was also damaged and cracks appeared in the floor. With the water outage continuing, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to resume making miso,” he said.

I am prepared for the fact that the number of people in District A will definitely decrease in the future. “I have work to do, so I don’t have any plans to leave at the moment.” First, focus on work at the evacuation center. (Katsuhiro Shimazaki)

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