Thousands still sheltering six months after New Year's Day quake in central Japan

Monday marks six months since a major earthquake devastated the Noto Peninsula and nearby areas of central Japan. It left 281 dead in Ishikawa Prefecture. Three others are still unaccounted for. Problems, including fatigue and psychological stress, are weighing down on survivors.

As of last Tuesday, nearly 2,300 people were staying at evacuation shelters in Ishikawa Prefecture.

About 50 of them have been sheltering at a lifelong learning center in Suzu City for the past six months. Until April, evacuees did not have access to water at the center as the quake had cut off service, but shower facilities and air conditioners were finally installed last month.

"Time has flown by so quickly. We've been working hard to return to normal," said Hashimoto Toyomi, who is in charge of the evacuation center.

About 50 of them have been sheltering at a lifelong learning center in Suzu City for the past six months.

School holding joint classes

A number of schools in the prefecture are still closed because they are either damaged or being used as shelters.

This means many students have to go to another school and adjust to new surroundings amid the hardships caused by the disaster. Six elementary schools are holding classes together in vacant classrooms at one of the few schools that are open.

"At first, I was nervous to attend class with students from other areas. But I gradually got used to it. I'm happy that I was able to become friends with them," said a sixth grader.

Six elementary schools in Wajima City are holding joint classes at a junior high school.

Officials stepping up measures

The magnitude 7.6 quake damaged more than 84,500 homes in Ishikawa Prefecture. About 10 percent of them ― or about 8,070 ― were completely destroyed.

A seven-story building and many others in Wajima City remain collapsed on June 26.

Ishikawa Prefectural officials offered prayers for the victims on Monday.

Ishikawa Governor Hase Hiroshi stressed the prefecture is still in an "emergency situation."

Senior officials offered a moment of silence on Monday morning.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio attended the inaugural meeting of a government cross-ministerial taskforce in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Kishida promised full support for restoration efforts. "We all must work closely as one to move forward the rebuilding processes for this region," he said.

The taskforce of 150 officials will be stationed in the prefecture. They will focus on removing debris, restoring water, and rebuilding a shopping district in Wajima City's Asaichi Street, which was severely damaged by a fire sparked by the quake.

Watch video 2:10