02 December, 2014

Ongoing sadness four years later

This morning I sat in a park with a friend. A park that was under metres of water in Brisbane's flood nearly four years ago. Two months after that disaster we experienced our own disaster in Japan. The fourth largest earthquake ever recorded which caused a tsunami of mammoth proportions.
The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku's Iwate Prefecture,[16][17] and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.
There were many differences between the two disasters. 

South East Queensland: Up to 50 people were killed, mostly in areas where flash floods occurred. Most of the floods were expected and most people were able to move out in time.
Damage initially was estimated at around A$1 billion[3] before it was raised to $2.38 billion (Wiki).
This morning as I sat in the park that had been covered by this flood, I saw zero evidence. Houses that had been flooded were occupied. The park was restored (or reformed, I don't know, I hadn't been there pre-flood).

North-east Honshu: Around 18,000 people were dead or missing as of February this year (Wikipedia). While earthquakes and tsunamis are expected in Japan, this tsunami was unusually large. The tsunamis (yes, there was more than one wave) simply flowed over structures designed to protect communities from inundation by tsunami, so many people were caught unawares.
The World Bank's estimated economic cost was US$235 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in world history (Wiki).
However, if I were to go today to one of the areas in Japan that were inundated, I'd see much evidence still remaining. Mostly empty foundations: places where people used to live, but no longer do. 

The fourth winter since the giant disaster in north-eastern Japan has arrived and many are still in temporary housing. Not because there isn't enough money, but because the money for reconstruction is tied up in red tape. This article is quite detailed in places, but it reveals the sad reality for many who have been promised homes, but don't yet have them.

Summary of the below: 
Lots of negotiation has been required to get land to build new homes on. It hasn't been easy to find the true owners of property. 

Here is more detailed explanation:
The government’s five-year reconstruction plan was built on unrealistic assumptions, said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo. “Given bottlenecks such as labor shortages and material cost rises, and difficulties in getting consensus among residents who are relocated, reconstruction budgets are not something that can be spent within five years,” he said. 
Officials in Ishinomaki, home to 150,000 people, say spending the more than ¥437 billion in reconstruction aid has proven tough. With all of the municipal-owned land having been designated for temporary housing after the tsunami, the city government had to negotiate the purchase of an additional 9,000 plots to build permanent homes, the reconstruction office’s Oka said. That inflated the price of a plot of land in Ishinomaki by 15 percent last year, the biggest jump anywhere in Japan.
Before the city could buy land, it had to track down the legal owners. That proved tedious, said Oka. Officials discovered that in many instances, properties had been passed down without proper inheritance procedures.

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