2011-03-14

Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Relief

I'm am member of an NPO in Japan called Ecology ArchiScape (hereafter EAS). EAS works to connect people, nature, art, and the built environment. The president of EAS is my professor, Dr. Koji Itonaga. Fifteen years ago Prof. Itonaga began working with Iitate Village, a rural community in Fukushima Prefecture. Last year EAS and Prof. Itonaga's research studio supported the construction of a model ecological home and sustainability center in Iitate Village. I lead a straw bale building workshop at the facility. Iitate Village is located 30-40 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

To put it simply, Iitate Village is in critical condition. Over 1000 tsunami refugees have taken shelter in elementary schools in Iitate Village, which normally has a population of 6000 people. Food, heating oil, and gasoline are in short supply. Iitate Village is now also a refugee area for those living within 20km of the nuclear power plant. However, atmospheric radiation levels in Iitate Village are above normal and Iitate Village has been declared an indoor evacuation zone (屋内退避), meaning that people are instructed not to go outside. A graph depicting radiation levels in Iitate Village is available here. And much worse, tap water tested at Iitate Village showed more than triple the level of radiation allowed by the government. Japan's Health Ministry is urging Iitate Village residents not to drink the tap water.

Several group evacuations have occurred, carrying hundreds of residents and refugees southwest. Unfortunately, farming is an important occupation in Iitate Village and many people cannot leave their livestock.

That all being said, EAS is raising money to provide emergency assistance to Iitate Village. Please visit the EAS homepage for further information.

2 comments:

tokyobling said...

I have passed through Fukushima a couple of times after the disaster and it truly is heartbreaking to see such devastation up close and personal. I really wish there was more I could do but work has me tethered to a desk in Tokyo when I'd rather be up north running supplies of helping to put up shelters.

To change the subject a little, how did the alternative buildings you have written about handle the earthquake itself? I have personally not seen one single building flattened by this earthquake itself (the tsunami will have to take the blame for that), and I have had a look at both traditional Japanese post and beam structures as well as modern steel/concrete buildings.

How about straw bale buildings? Do you have any information?

Kyle Holzhueter said...

Dear Tokyobling,

I took a look at your blog. Great photos. Thank you. I've been involved in the construction of two straw bale buildings in Tohoku, one in Fukushima-ken, Iitata-mura and the second in Tochigi-ken, Nasu-shi. Neither of the buildings showed any damage from the earthquake on March 11.

Kyle