Voters in tsunami-hit zone feel let down as Japan election nears

Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:52pm EST
 

By Junko Fujita and Kiyoshi Takenaka

IWAKI/KAMAISHI, Japan (Reuters) - Three weeks before Japan's first national election since the March 2011 earthquake, none of the contenders has managed to win the hearts, and votes, of those hardest-hit by the disaster - with many feeling let down by the entire political class.

Volunteers and donations had poured in after the magnitude 9.0 quake off the northeast coast of Japan's main island Honshu unleashed a deadly tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 and triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

But 20 months later, residents of towns and cities ravaged by the country's worst disaster in generations say the nation's biggest rebuilding effort since the aftermath of the World War Two has slipped off the political agenda.

"I am not expecting anything from the election results," said Akio Ono, president of seafood processing firm Ono Foods Co, in Kamaishi, a port with a population of 38,000, where more than 1,000 residents were killed by the tsunami.

"None of the politicians seem to be thinking about Japan seriously, they are not paying attention to the disaster-hit areas."

In Kamaishi, like many communities along the coast, scars of the disaster are still visible -- gaping empty lots left after buildings swept away by the tsunami side-by-side with prefabricated temporary buildings hosting shops and eateries.

The December 16 vote pits Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democrats against the Liberal Democratic Party, led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and a clutch of smaller parties.

LOW EXPECTATIONS   Continued...

 
Victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami observe a minute of silence at a shelter in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture, in this April 11, 2011 file photograph, marking the one month anniversary of the deadly quake which triggered the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Weeks before Japan's first national election on December 16, 2012, since the earthquake, none of the contenders has managed to win the hearts, and votes, of those hardest-hit by the disaster - with many feeling let down by the entire political class. Volunteers and donations had poured in after the magnitude 9.0 quake off the northeast coast of Japan's main island Honshu unleashed a deadly tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 and triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. But 20 months later, residents of towns and cities ravaged by the country's worst disaster in generations say the nation's biggest rebuilding effort since the aftermath of the World War Two has slipped off the political agenda. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files