Sendai (AsiaNews) - Two years after Japan was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami on 11 March 2011, the Diocesan Support Centre in Sendai continues its work in cooperation with Caritas Japan. Set up five days after the disaster that killed more than 19,000 people, the centre is active in various cities-Kamaisgi, Yonekawa, Minami, Sanriku, Ishinomaki, Miyako, Osuchi, Ofunato, Haramachi and Iwaki-with more than a hundred volunteers involved in reconstruction projects and psychological and spiritual support for survivors.
The situation in the affected areas remains critical. In Iwate and Myagi Prefectures, reconstruction has finally begun after residents pleaded with the authorities. Still, life is very basic, and people must rely on humanitarian aid.
In the heavily damaged cities of Minami-Sanriku (Myagi) and Ostuchi (Iwate), many buildings still lay in ruin, waiting for reconstruction to begin, many still covered by this winter's snow as plants spring back to life with the coming of the spring.
Reconstruction is going painfully slow. Thousands of people have still not been able to return to their places of origin. Myagi and Itawe have lost 150,000 residents, and their future remains uncertain.
The longer matters linger, the harder for residents to survive without work. At the same time, economic hardships are being compounded by psychological distress.
Many people are hoping that before the end of the year, community centres will be up and running to provide help to families, but especially people living alone, enduring a sense of isolation generated by the prefabricated housing were they are temporarily living.
In Fukushima Prefecture, where the local nuclear plant released radioactive material following the earthquake and tsunami, things are even worse.
After the incident at Reactor 1, 89,000 residents had to leave the 30 km radius area et up around the plant. It is unclear whether they will be able to go home.
In places like Koryama and Fukushima, radiation levels are still very high even if they are at 60 km from the plant.
Some reports continue to report radiation levels of 20 millisieverts a year, high enough to endanger human life. The acceptable level is 1 millisievert per year.
This has led more people to abandon the towns and villages near the nuclear plant without government aid. The problem is especially serious for young families with children who have a hard time making ends meet.