MINAMI-SANRIKU, Miyagi Prefecture--A four-story wedding hall where 327 people took shelter and survived the 2011 tsunami should be allowed to stand as a memorial and perhaps to save lives again, its owner said after local authorities asked him to demolish the wrecked shell.
"I think the building should be preserved so that people continue to talk about the disaster," said Yasuhiro Abe, president of Abecho Shoten Co., in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, which operates businesses in the region including hotels. "If the surrounding area becomes a park, it could also be used again as an evacuation facility."
The steel-framed Takano Kaikan hall stands 200 meters from the beachfront in Minami-Sanriku, where the tsunami wiped out entire neighborhoods. It smashed through the building's three lower floors, but people on the rooftop survived. The building stands 22 meters high.
The local government has declared the area will remain vulnerable to natural disasters and homes should not be rebuilt. Instead it plans to turn the neighborhood into a park, raising the ground by up to six meters, and creating one 18-meter-high mound as an evacuation site.
Minami-Sanriku town officials asked Abecho Shoten to demolish the building shell, saying Japan's central government would cover the costs of demolition.
It has said it will now consider letting the building stand. But it is unenthusiastic about that because of the cost of preserving and managing the building. Another problem is the legal question of who owns it and the land it is on.
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