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Reconstruction in Japan's tsunami-hit region remains slow

TOKYO, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Reconstruction of the regions in northeastern Japan, which were struck four years ago by a devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami, remains slow.

Reconstruction work in the hardest-hit regions of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures has been inexplicably slow. In Iwate prefecture, 1,049 publicly funded homes for refugees had been built as of January, only 18 percent of some 6,000 units planned to be constructed by late 2018.

The situation in the rest two prefectures were also pessimistic. Only 17.4 percent of a total of 15,484 units planned to be built by March 2018 had been completed in Miyagi by January and 5 percent of merely 5,000 had been built in Fukushima as of January due to delayed decontamination work in the prefecture.

In March 2011, a magnitude-9.0 struck off northeastern Japan, triggering a massive tsunami with waves as high as 20 meters washing away entire towns and villages, with the Tohoku region being one of the worst hit.

The massive tsunami knocked out key cooling functions at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear facility, causing three reactors to melt down within what has recently been revealed as shoddily constructed reactor buildings. The plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power has, indefensibly, failed to bring the ongoing nuclear crisis under control.

With the amount of radioactive materials released into the environment being twice as much as the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the calamity at the Daiichi plant has become the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

A total of some 470,000 people had to be evacuated after the earthquake and tsunami struck, with around 120,000 still living in temporary housing and makeshift shelters due to the nuclear crisis, many of which look like internment, or asylum seekers' camps, with families of up to four or five people forced to share a single room in a wood hut and having no idea when they can return home or be rehoused into permanent residences.

The refugees in the camps struggle to live meaningful and healthy lives, with instances of obesity and other health problems plaguing the younger evacuees, who have nowhere to play, including mental issues such as chronic depression and post traumatic stress.

According to official figures, 3,244 of those living in temporary shelters have died from diseases, old age, suicide, and other causes, since being evacuated four years ago.

Fishery, a main industry in the three prefectures, has not fully recovered yet and seafood production remained sluggish.

About 53 percent of facilities in Iwate Prefecture were operating at 80 percent or above of their pre-disaster levels, while in Miyagi and Fukushima, the number is even lower, at 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively, according to a survey by Japan's Fisheries Agency between November and January.

The Japan Times noted that the percentage of facilities at or above the 80-percent production threshold hasn't changed much since last year's survey, which recorded 57 percent in Iwate, 49 percent in Miyagi and 24 percent in Fukushima.

So far, decontamination work in and around the leaking nuclear plant has been blamed to be "rudimentary", "unscientific", and "painfully slow", as contaminated waste in black refuse bags are seen piled up alongside deserted streets and rice fields, both in and outside the "no go" zone. Industrial equipment for the decontamination work lied idle and a handful of part-timers and day laborers were sprinkling new soil by hand and with hose.

It would take 35 years to finally disable the reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, according to Japnese experts and media.

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