While the central government was flailing during the first days of the disaster, Niigata prefecture jumped to action. A 10km long traffic jam had clogged the main road west out of Fukushima towards Niigata as residents fled the nuclear disaster. The prefecture government had become aware of the mass exodus the previous afternoon. Their 14 member team began setting up locations where evacuees could rest, consult with officials and be tested for radiation.
Within 1 day 10 municipalities and the prefectural government were ready to accept 3000 evacuees. On March 18th 64 evacuation centers were open and accepted 10,574 evacuees. Niigata has had their own disaster experience after dealing with two major quakes. Every municipality can open an evacuation center in two hours. The mayor of Minami-Soma criticized the central government. They issue evacuation orders but leave the rest to the local government that is likely in chaos due to the situation causing the evacuation. The Governor of Niigata threw the mayor a lifeline. He told him they were ready to accept evacuees and to send them to Niigata. 200 residents boarded buses and escaped the disaster.
The local government staff well understood how evacuation can lead to dispair as people don’t know what their future will be. Some showed evacuees their museum of rebuilding after their town was destroyed. Others invited evacuees to join them in rice planting.
“I thought it may help them relax and get to feel a little better,”
Read the entire story here at Asahi Shimbun
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