Evacuees Preferred to Continue Living in Relocation Sites Rather than Return: Misunderstanding of the Government and Media About the True Intentions of Evacuees
Ryo Fujikura*1,, Miko Maekawa*2, Mikiyasu Nakayama*3, and Daisuke Sasaki*4
*1Faculty of Sustainability Studies, Hosei University
2-17-1 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8160, Japan
*2Ocean Policy Research Institute, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Tokyo, Japan
*3Global Infrastructure Fund Research Foundation Japan, Tokyo, Japan
*4International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), Tohoku University, Miyagi, Japan
The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 induced massive temporary relocation of the people in the Maldives, from the small atolls they lived in to nearby larger atolls. Once they were permitted to return home, some evacuees proved reluctant to leave temporary housing due to a better livelihood. On the occasion of the accident at the nuclear power plant caused by the tsunami brought by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, all the residents of Hirono Town in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, were forced to evacuate over a long period. Many of them lived in temporary housing built in Iwaki City in the same prefecture. Some of the evacuees, as was the case in the Maldives, showed reluctance to return home, on the ground that livelihood in the temporary housing was both convenient and enjoyable. It was a surprise for national and local governments because they assumed that those in temporary housing were uncomfortable and that the evacuees were keen to leave to return home. Differences in information existed between the evacuees and the government. This study aims to determine why such a disparity emerged and was left unrevealed. It also tries to reveal what the observed differences led to after the evacuees returned home. Furthermore, it examines the impact of mass media on the minds of the general public. It finds that the evacuees’ minds changed over time as they initially found themselves away from home, living in temporary housing and unhappy. Mass media conveyed unupdated and confusing messages to society, as if evacuees were actually unhappy. Society thus tended to regard the displaced as unhappy forever, while the evacuees found their livelihood in temporary housing comfortable or even enjoyable to the extent that some decided not to return home by becoming residents of Iwaki City. Society should be aware that evacuees’ idea and behavior may drastically change over time – even beyond their imagination.
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