The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake(1995) and Mental Health Issues

Post-disaster temporary housings

The two distinctive features that differentiate the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake from past disasters are the large quantity of temporary housing built for the evacuees, and the unexpectedly long temporary residence period. Let us briefly review how the temporary housing affected the lives of the disaster victims, and what it meant to them.

What is“temporary housing”?

The establishment of temporary housing was authorized by section 23 of the national disaster relief act, officially enacted in 1947. According to the regulation of that time, the quantity of temporary housing was supposed to be 30% of all households which were completely destroyed, burned, or flooded due to a disaster. As a rule, the period of accommodation was to be no more than 2 years. However, in the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, an exception was made due to the severity of the disaster. The accommodation period has been extended time and time again. Needless to say, the quantity of temporary housing was the largest since the regulation first came into force.

Temporary housing (1)

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Left: close view [1]  Right: removal of temporary housing unit

In the context of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

What is unique about temporary housing in the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake;What is unique about temporary housing in the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake;

【1】 Location: Because there was a shortage of space in urban areas, vacant land in the suburbs and reclaimed land from the sea were used to build as a matter of practical convenience. As a result, temporary housing was scattered from Harima to Osaka.

■The distribution map

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※the number cited in Osaka Prefecture only contains
the number of Hyogo residents.

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In most cases, evacuees ended up moving to the locations different from where they used to make their living.

【2】Admission: Priority was given to evacuees in need of welfare support. They drew in a lottery to decide their location. Consequently, the loss of community was inevitable.

【3】Since there was a serious demand to ensure enough emergency restoration housings to cover evacuees in need of housing, the accommodation period has been extended 3 times. The residents of temporary housing have been required to renew their lease every 6 months since 1998.

Stressors related to temporary housing

Disaster victims have suffered from stressors including the shock of the disaster itself and consequent losses. The sudden change of their lifestyle can also be a powerful stressor affecting these evacuees. Possible chronic stressors included the following; repetitive relocation, intricate procedures required for relocation, adaptation to relationships at the new surroundings, uncomfortable new living environments, and uncertainty for their future.

For these relocated to distant areas, life in suburban residential areas was very inconvenient. This was especially true for elder evacuees who once lived in the downtown area. Moving to suburban areas was a large burden because very few drive and these suburban areas are usually far from public transportation and stores. For those victims who moved out of Hyogo Prefecture, the biggest stressors were unfamiliarity with the place and people, inaccessibility of information for returning to their home, and the worry that they might not get the same quality of assistance as much as evacuees in Hyogo Prefecture.

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Left: distant view Right: close view [2]

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