Photo/IllutrationTents are used as health-care and changing rooms at an elementary school serving as a shelter in Nagano on Oct. 16. (Kayoko Sekiguchi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Tents for privacy, video games for kids, healthy meals and tablet PCs--these are some of the measures being taken at evacuation centers housing more than 4,000 people unable to return home after Typhoon No. 19 swept through eastern Japan on Oct. 12.

The mega-storm brought record amounts of rain, causing embankment breaches and extensive flooding to tens of thousands of homes in multiple prefectures, leaving more than 80 dead.

Nagano Prefecture, hit hard by the disaster, had more than 900 evacuees as of Oct. 20. The city of Nagano set up 70 tents, about 2.5 meters square each, at seven shelters to give evacuees privacy for changing clothes, breast-feeding and other purposes.

Six tents in the gymnasium and its entrance area at Furusato Elementary School, which serves as a shelter, are used as changing areas and health-care rooms.

Miyoshi Yoshimura, 76, whose home in the Hoyasu district was inundated by floodwaters, changed her clothes in one of the tents on Oct. 16, saying that until then she had been afraid to do so for lack of privacy.

"I don't want to change clothes in public regardless of my sex or age," she said. "(The tents) are much appreciated."

Yukie Ito, 41, who was volunteering as a nurse, also welcomed the enclosures, saying: "We can put a stethoscope against an evacuee's chest without worry. They also need to talk about private matters such as diseases or conditions in their family history."

HEALTHY EATING OPTIONS

Nutrition is also a major concern for residents staying at evacuation centers for extended periods.

The city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, started providing "bento" boxed meals three times a day to evacuees at three shelters from the night of Oct. 13.

However, much of the food in the bentos was fried, including chicken and other products. As visiting doctors pointed out the lack of balanced nutrition, the city asked a bento maker to provide alternative food offerings from Oct. 17.

For two evacuees who suffer from diabetes, the city has prepared a diet low in calories and salt.

The modified bentos delivered to the gym at Iitomi Junior High School, which is serving as a shelter site, on the night of Oct. 20, contained a more balanced meal, such as vegetables, stir-fried vermicelli, macaroni salad and white rice.

One of the evacuees, Junko Onobu, 70, appreciated the healthier food option, saying, "Older people like me prefer to eat such food."

KEEPING THE KIDS BUSY

Measures are also being taken at evacuation centers to keep children active in the hope of easing the stress from such a potentially traumatic experience.

At a sports facility used as a shelter in Nagano, the voices of children could be heard on Oct. 17 as they sat before a TV screen playing a Nintendo Switch video game console set up in a corner.

"You are so strong!" one cried out, while another said, "My turn next!"

NTT East Corp.'s Nagano branch office installed the console the previous day. When its employees visited shelters in Nagano Prefecture to install Wi-Fi service, they received input from evacuees, who requested an environment that could reduce stress among children.

"We want to children to be children, by having them relax in an environment close to that of their normal lives," an official of the branch office said.

AVOIDING THE 'TELEPHONE GAME'

Some shelters are also employing digital devices to manage and coordinate information in an efficient manner.

At 24 evacuation centers in Nagano Prefecture, about 60 tablets were made available, enabling evacuees to order food, clothing, medical products and other items.

Previously, such information was less efficiently communicated between shelters and municipal, prefectural and national authorities, often creating a confusing and complicated situation.

The iPad system, whereby various authorities can send and share information instantly, got its start in the aftermath of the Kumamoto Prefecture earthquakes in April 2016.

Shelters in Ibaraki Prefecture, which was also ravaged by Typhoon No. 19, is also preparing a communication system using the digital devices.