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4 years after Japan earthquake, refugees struggle for housing

Victims of the earthquake continue to live under the threat of homelessness, and radioactive waters pose a threat to fisheries in the region.

By
Elizabeth Shim
The destruction in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, on March 16, 2011. Four years after the earthquake killed nearly 16,000 people, hundreds of thousands remain displaced from a region now plagued by radioactive water. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
The destruction in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, on March 16, 2011. Four years after the earthquake killed nearly 16,000 people, hundreds of thousands remain displaced from a region now plagued by radioactive water. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

TOKYO, March 11 (UPI) -- Four years after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the east coast of Japan and killed nearly 16,000 people, hundreds of thousands more remain displaced, with radioactive waste continuing to trouble the waters in the affected region of Tohoku.

Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday on the plight of the 229,000 people who remain displaced as refugees. This population has been in limbo since the earthquake and tsunami destroyed their homes in March 2011. About 80,000 were living in temporary housing units and were under pressure to relocate to a more permanent residence.

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Earthquake refugees with disabilities face even greater obstacles, the Japanese newspaper reported.

A 60-year-old blind woman, Yuriko Shimizu, was subjected to housing discrimination. She said she was rejected as a tenant because of her visual impairment.

The Japanese government said public housing couldn't be provided for a "community with only such people."

Some 35,332 people currently live in temporary housing in 13 cities.

Radioactive water, meanwhile, continues to be pumped into the waters surrounding the nuclear plant at the center of three reactor core meltdowns.

The Japan Times reported the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the amount of radioactive water is increasing by 300 tons daily.

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Fisheries workers are avoiding the waters of the region until a more comprehensive disclosure is made to the public.

Tepco has said it is building storage tanks to contain the pollution, but said some of the tanks have leaked. Capacity is also at issue, given Tepco has more then 500,000 tons of radioactive water that needs to be held.

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