SPECIAL vol.25 Evacuation Shelters and Life as an Evacuee
by Voices from the Field Admin - Sunday, 4 October 2015, 08:05 PM
In the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, 36 evacuation shelters were opened in Shichigahama at peak period, and they were all closed by June 20, 2011. As of March 14, 2011, up to 6,143 people had taken refuge in those shelters. Especially the residents within a radius of 2 km from a nearby oil refinery were forced to evacuate regardless of the damages to their homes, because one of the asphalt tanks at the refinery had exploded and still more were in danger of exploding. Most of the designated evacuation shelter sites along the coast were of no use because the tsunami did them much damage. However, there were a lot of areas on higher ground in the Shichigahama area due to its geography, and the public facilities located in those areas accommodated lots of evacuees. Some of the evacuation shelters were so crowded that the evacuees were packed like sardines. Under such circumstances not a few evacuees were obliged to stay in their cars, or to spend an uneasy night at their partially collapsed houses without any working lifelines. Furthermore, it was very cold with some flurries of snow on the day of the disaster. In many of the public facilities the heating source was electric air conditioners, so the general failure of power supply made them unusable. As a quick replacement, old-fashioned oil heaters were carried into the shelters but because of oil shortage they were not able to sufficiently provide heat for the evacuees. As a result some of the evacuees who survived the disaster died of hypothermia despite efforts by the evacuees to support one another.