Ishikawa pref. victims start to move into temporary housing

The first temporary housing units have opened for people left homeless by the New Year's Day earthquake on the Sea of Japan coast. More than 8,000 people remain in evacuation centers in Ishikawa Prefecture.

The quake survivors started moving into their temporary homes in the city of Wajima on Saturday.

A 76-year-old woman has been living in an evacuation center with her daughter's family ever since her house burned down during the quake.

She said, "It's more comfortable, mentally. I don't have to worry about others."

A total of 18 families consisting of 55 people will move into these units. They either lost their homes in the disaster, or are elderly and need extra care.

City officials have received more than 4,000 applications for temporary housing.

Ishikawa prefecture aims to begin work on an additional 3,000 units before the end of March, with 1,300 of them slated to be completed by that time.

A professor at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto Sawada Michio studies how quake victims survive in the days and weeks afterwards.

He says the quake-hit municipalities in Noto are relatively small, meaning there is a limit to how much the communities can do.

Sawada said, "The temporary housing units have been provided swiftly, but the number is extremely limited. I think it's crucial that the quake-hit municipalities get help from the state, the prefecture or even the private sector."

Search operations continued on Saturday with about 130 police and fire personnel taking part.

Eleven people remain unaccounted for in the city of Wajima, and two in Suzu.

240 people have so far been confirmed dead throughout Ishikawa Prefecture.