EVACUATION OF THE AREA AROUND THE FUKUSHIMA PLANT
damage near the plant On March 12, the day after the powerful earthquake and tsunami, Japanese authorities began evacuating residents nearby the Fukushima nuclear power plant due to the release of radioactive elements into the environment. At least 210,000 people living with a 10-kilometer radius of the plant were told to evacuate the area. No one forced people to leave. Many stayed.
On March 15, three days after the quake, people living within a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate. Those living beyond the 20-kilometer limit within 30 kilometers (just over 18.5 miles) were advised to remain indoors and take measures that might reduce their exposure to radiation such as wearing surgical masks and covering their bodies as much as possible. The government also distributed the drug potassium iodine to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine (the drug works by flooding the body with iodine so the thyroid gland doesn’t pick up the radioactive iodine).
This meant an additional 180,000 people — on top of the 200,000 already ordered to move — had to relocate, bringing the total of evacuees at that point to 380,000. The authorities also said they were to distributing iodine to residents in the area of both the plants. People living beyond the evacuation zone also started to leave. NHK reported residents spurred to leave by a spreading panic caused in part by distrust that the government is telling the full truth about the nuclear accidents and how widespread the danger is.
A shelter was set up at a sports center in Yamagata, 100 miles inland, for people fleeing Fukushima. Other facilities were set up in nearby prefectures in town halls and gymnasiums. Some evacuees were moved to one place initially after they were evacuated and then transferred to larger facilities near Tokyo a week or so after the evacuation order.
Some people who were told to evacuate the area around Fukushima nuclear power plant refused to go. Other returned to pick up their belongings, wearing raincoats, gloves and masks. Others still came back to live because they felt it was impossible to start a new life and they had no other choice but to return. One of the biggest hardships for some evacuees was what to do about their pets since most evacuation centers wouldn’t take them. Many defied the evacuation orders and returned to their homes in the evacuation zones to feed their dogs and cats and take other measures to take care of them or move them.
In Fukushima Prefecture outside the evacuation zone school kids were kept inside and required to wear masks when they went outside. In Chiba Prefecture there were reports of kids evacuated from the Fukushima nuclear power plant area being taunted for having “radiation infections.”
Links to Articles in this Website About the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake factsanddetails.com : MARCH 2011 EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI IN JAPAN: DEATH TOLL AND ITS BEGINNING factsanddetails.com ; ARTICLES ABOUT THE CRISIS AT THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DAMAGE FROM 2011 EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS AND SURVIVOR STORIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT DISASTER AFTER THE MARCH 2011 EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI factsanddetails.com ; MELTDOWNS AT THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS factsanddetails.com ; EARLY HOURS OF THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER factsanddetails.com ; TEPCO AND THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT DISASTER: SHODDY SAFETY MEASURES, THE YAKUZA AND POOR MANAGEMENT factsanddetails.com ; JAPANESE GOVERNMENT'S HANDLING OF THE TSUNAMI AND THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER factsanddetails.com ; BRAVE WORKERS AND ROBOTS AT THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT factsanddetails.com ; RADIOACTIVE WATER CONTAINMENT AT FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT factsanddetails.com COLD SHUTDOWN AND LONGER TERM MANAGEMENT OF FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR CRISIS factsanddetails.com ; RADIATION RELEASES, FEARS AND HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER factsanddetails.com
Confusing Fukushima Evacuation Orders
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The decision to issue evacuation instructions to residents living near the stricken nuclear plant was made by a handful of staffers at the Prime Minister's Office. This would normally have been the responsibility of local government headquarters in the area, but local authorities were not functioning in the hours after the disaster struck. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 30, 2011]
The government-issued evacuation plans were confusing. The interim report released in December 2011 is scathing on this point, saying that residents near the plant were "getting mixed messages" from the government. At 8:50 p.m. on March 11, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato instructed residents living within a two-kilometer radius of the plant to evacuate. This was the same range as that used in evacuation exercises.
But at a meeting held on the fifth floor of the Prime Minister's Office, Haruki Madarame, chairman of the commission; Eiji Hiraoka, director general of NISA; and other officials said the evacuation zone should be expanded to three kilometers from the plant, based on the International Atomic Energy Agency's guidelines. Hiraoka was especially adamant the evacuation area should have a radius of three kilometers."Some evacuation drills have included areas within a three-kilometer radius," he said. At 9:23 p.m.--about half an hour after the first evacuation instruction was issued--the government ordered all residents within three kilometers of the nuclear plant to leave the area.
The evacuation zone was further widened twice on March 12. At 5:44 a.m., the government instructed residents within a 10-kilometer radius of the plant to evacuate, and at 6:25 p.m. the zone's radius was doubled to 20 kilometers after a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor earlier that day. At 11 a.m. on March 15, the government instructed residents between 20 and 30 kilometers from the leaking plant to stay indoors.
Inadequate Fukushima Evacuation Orders
The delay in releasing information from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) was a major reason the government lost the public's trust, Yukio Edano admitted. Municipalities around the crippled nuclear plant complained that some of their residents evacuated from their homes immediately after the crisis began to places with higher radiation levels, unaware of the danger due to lack of information. [Source: Makoto Mitsui and Shozo Nakayama, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 29, 2012]
“Edano also admitted that inappropriate evacuation instructions were given to residents around the nuclear plant on March 11 and 12 last year, shortly after the crisis began. Many residents left home without enough belongings, believing they could return soon, because Edano's instructions included many such expressions as "just in case" and "to take all possible measures to ensure [safety].”
“If his initial remarks had been based on the assumption residents' evacuation might last longer, the following turmoil could have been reduced. Edano said he was "ashamed" of failing to tell residents about the possibility of extended evacuations. The committee criticized Edano for confusing residents by repeatedly saying radiation would have "no immediate effects" on their health. "I should have told them about [the effects] more minutely and precisely," Edano said, admitting his explanations were insufficient. "I must accept criticism for that.”
American Evacuation Order for the Area Around the Fukushima Plants
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned American citizens that they should move at least 50 miles (82 kilometers) away from the Fukushima plant. That warning was significantly stronger than the Japanese government's warning to keep 12 miles (20 kilometers) away. A Pentagon spokesman said that U.S. military personnel and their families would not be allowed within 50 miles of the damaged nuclear plant
A U.S. government statement read: “We are recommending, as a precaution, that American citizens who live within 50 miles of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or to take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical.”Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that his body recommended an evacuation area much larger than has taken place around Japan’s reactors “as a prudent measure,” adding “with a comparable situation here in the United States, we would likely be looking at an evacuation of a larger distance.” Jaczko said the decision was based in part on concerns that all the water in the spent fuel pool at Fukushima reactor No. 4 had boiled dry and that as a result, “we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said: “We’ve seen this powerful natural disaster cause even more catastrophe through its impact on nuclear reactors that bring peaceful energy to the people of Japan. First, we are bringing all available resources to bear to closely monitor the situation, and to protect American citizens who may be in harm’s way. Even as Japanese responders continue to do heroic work, we know that the damage to the nuclear reactors in Fukushima Daiichi plant poses a substantial risk to people who are nearby. That is why yesterday we called for an evacuation of American citizens who are within 50 miles of the plant. This decision was based upon a careful scientific evaluation and the guidelines that we would use to keep our citizens safe here in the United States or anywhere in the world... Beyond this 50-mile radius, the risks do not currently call for an evacuation. But we do have a responsibility to take prudent and precautionary measures to educate those Americans who may be endangered by exposure to radiation if the situation deteriorates. That’s why last night I authorized the voluntary departures of family members and dependents of U.S. officials working in northeastern Japan.
After that Japanese officials began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger area around the Fukushima nuclear plant. The authorities said they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 20 to 30 kilometers outside the crippled plant and said they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area.
Evacuating from the Area Near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
Michael Alison Chandler wrote: “For 43 years, Nobukiki and Sakiko Araki lived in a farmhouse about three miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant...On March 11, a 20-foot tsunami swallowed their house and washed away their neighborhood. The nuclear disaster that followed chased the Arakis, both nurses, off the land their families have tilled for generations. “I feel I may never set my foot back on the soil,” said Nobukiki, 61, wearing a tired expression and a donated jacket. He and his wife are living in a shelter with 1,200 former neighbors, all of whom lost their homes and community in a single afternoon.[Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post March 29, 2011]
“The plant had been a welcome addition to their depressed farming community when it opened in 1975, Nobukiki said. “There were no jobs and people used to go to Tokyo to find work,” he said. Some opponents of the plant warned that the earthquake could trigger a catastrophic nuclear accident, he recalled. “But Tepco said there was not even a one in a million chance” it could happen, he said.
Nobukiki and Sakiko Araki “learned about the broad sweep of the destruction around northern Japan and the rising temperature inside the reactors a few miles away. No one knew what to do. Sakiko said it was a relief the next morning at 8 a.m. when police arrived wearing gas masks and hooded jackets and told everyone to evacuate. They organized rides to another shelter, at a primary school in Kawamata, about 30 miles away. [Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post March 29, 2011]
The Arakis drove themselves in their Toyota Vitz, which, by luck, had a full tank of gas. As they drove out of town, Nobukiki said he had a fleeting thought that they might never return.
Because of the mass exodus, the normally hour-long trip took them six hours. They arrived hungry and tired at the shelter, where they made up their beds with borrowed camel-brown blankets on the floor of the gym surrounded by 800 others. Food was scarce. Nobukiki recorded in his calendar, “dinner: one rice ball.” Later they moved to another shelter, this one just north of Tokyo at a giant arena in Saitama prefecture.
“Government officials arranged for the residents to be taken south in dozens of buses about a week after the accident. The town hall also moved its office into a series of folding tables in the hallway of the arena. At the new shelter, Sakiko helped take care of the elderly and disabled. They played cards and watched TV. They read five newspapers a day, hungry for any information about the plant, their home town, their missing friends.” Town officials helped the evacuees find new places to live before the shelter closed on March 31. Nobukiki and Sakiko move in with their son, who lives near Tokyo, in dormitory-style housing provided by his company, which arranges for shipment of nuclear waste. The company is moving him into a larger apartment that he can share with his parents. “Normally when the water recedes, you can go back,” Nobukiki said. “People can go back to their broken houses and rebuild them. But in our case, because of the radiation, we cannot.”
People were screened for the presence of radioactivity. In this process two devises were used: Geiger counters, which measure radioactivity on the outside of the body; and a sodium iodine detectors, which are held on the neck and detect radioactive iodine in the thyroid. If any hints of radiation exposure were found blood test were taken, potassium iodine pills were given and other measures were taken.
Lack of Help for Fukushima Area Residents
People living in and around the Fukushima nuclear power plant complained of a striking lack of help from the Japanese government to assist with the evacuation of danger zones and bring of supplies to those it has urged to stay inside. Reporting from Yamagata, Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “An awful realization is setting in for those trapped in the vicinity of the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex: People are afraid to help them. Residents describe spooky scenes of municipal cars driving down near-empty streets telling people to stay indoors, but they've seen few other signs of outside help. Aid agencies are reluctant to get too close to the plant. Shelters set up in the greater Fukushima area for "radiation refugees" have little food, in part because nobody wants to deliver to an area that might be contaminated. And with little or no gasoline available, not everyone who wants to leave can get out. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2011]
"People who don't have family nearby, who are old or sick in bed, or couldn't get gasoline, they haven't been able to get away from the radiation," Emi Shinkawa, whose house was swept away by the tsunami, told the Los Angeles Times. Her daughter, Tomoko Monma, said, "We've gotten no help. We've gotten no information."
"The government is demanding that we don't go out, but it isn't bringing us anything," Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of a city close to the exclusion zone, told NHK. "Truck drivers don't want to enter the city. They're afraid of being exposed to radiation. If the government says we're in a dangerous area, it should take more care of us!"
Many foreign aid workers in the area chose to remain just outside the 12-mile zone. Casey Calamusa, a communications officer with World Vision told the Los Angeles Times a three-member team went to Fukushima to distribute supplies such as water, blankets and diapers at an evacuation center. The team was equipped with protective masks and suits and stayed outside the exclusion zone, he said. "They were playing it pretty safe. They were talking to local authorities and letting them know we wanted to help the evacuees," Calamusa said. "There is an imperative to help those people — they've had to leave their belongings behind and they're staying in shelters in near-freezing weather." Officials with Save the Children said, "This is a first for us. We are a humanitarian organization — we don't know this. We're not nuclear physicists. We want to be able to protect our staff and to help people and their children.”
Thirty-year-old Fukushima resident Takahiro Kori, who lost his house to the tsunami and say the giant wave in his rear-view mirror as he made his escape, told the Los Angeles Times,"I'm disgusted by the whole thing. We were told our whole lives that the nuclear plant was safe. They told us even if there is a big earthquake or tsunami, it will never collapse. It all turned out to be lies."
Fukushima residents said they also worried about stigmatized as “radiation carriers” for living in and around the Fukushima plant. "I am worried about the future, " said a 65-year-old retired engineer from Sugagawa City, 30 miles from the plant, told the Los Angeles Times. "There could be some rumors that the people from this area are contaminated by radiation, and that people should not get close to us."
Left Behind by the Evacuation Around the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
Thousands — many too old or infirm to move — were stranded in areas near the stricken reactors. Mark Magnier wrote in Los Angeles Times: “Japanese soldiers found 128 elderly people abandoned by medical staff at a hospital six miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. Most were comatose and 14 died shortly after. Eleven more reportedly froze to death at a retirement home in Kesennuma six days after several dozen of their fellow residents were killed by the tsunami. Morimitsu Inawashida, the facility's owner, characterized those who survived as "highly stressed." [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2011]
Yoshimitsu Inomata, head of Aozorakai Omachi Hospital 16 miles from the nuclear complex, told NHK that most of the staff had fled, there was no medicine or IV drips left, and little food remained. Many of the elderly patients are unable to digest emergency rations of canned bread, he said. And no one wanted to enter the radiation-affected zone to help. "It's a nightmare," Inomata said. "We don't even need people with special skills. Anyone who can get here and serve food or change a diaper would be great." The patients were later evacuated.
Kyodo reported that the bodies of hundreds of people killed by the quake and tsunami lay uncollected in the area near the plant because they were contaminated by radiation, leaving the police and morgue workers unable to safely handle them. The authorities are considering the use of mobile decontamination units to clean the bodies on the spot, Kyodo reported. [Source: New York Times, March 31, 2011]
Returning to Evacuation Zone to Retrieve Personal Belongings
Prime Minister Kan visits
a evacuation shelter In May about 75,300 residents in 27,340 household lived in the evacuation zones were allowed to return to their homes for two hours to do what they wanted and retrieve some personal items. The evacuees were bused under tight supervision by nuclear officials and were required to wear white protective suits. The personal items they retrieved such as photo albums and tablets traditionally used in Japan to honor dead relatives in household Buddhist shrines had to fit into a 45-liter, 70-centimeter square plastic bag. Many complained the visit was to short and the amount of stuff they ere allowed to retrieve was too small.
The New York Times reported: “The government appeared to agonize for weeks over whether to allow even brief trips. Officials were concerned about whether civilians could be kept safe from exposure to potentially high radiation doses near the plant. Complicating their decision was the lack of scientific knowledge on the health effects of the radiation doses now found in many of the evacuated areas. Some scientists say radiation levels even in many evacuated areas are too low to cause immediate illness, while others worry that the incidence of cancer could rise over the long term.”
“The week before the government staged a trial run; officials played the role of returning residents to see if the trips could be made safely. Screened for radiation on their return, those participating were found to have been exposed to a dose of up to 25 microsieverts during the two-hour visit.”
In August 2011, evacuees who lived in residences within three kilometers of the Fukushima nuclear power plants were allowed to visit their homes. Of the 1136 people from 420 that were eligible to visit, 152 people actiually made this visit.
In September 2011, the government decided to dissolve the emergency evacuation preparation zone located between 20 and 30 kilometers from the crippled nuclear power plant. This was the first reduction in the evacuation zones.
Pets and Animals in the Evacuation Zones
Evacuation Shelter In late April, the Fukushima prefecture government decided that pets left in the 20-kilometer-radius no-entry zone would be kept in a temporary shelter and provided with health care. Veterinarians wearing protective clothes and dosimeter to measure radiation entered the evacuation zone and washed pets that registered high levels of radiation and took them to a facility outside the evacuation zone.
More than 650,000 domesticated animals were left behind in the 20-kilometer evacuation zone. This included 31,500 pigs and 630,000 chickens. Many were simply left behind and are believed to have starved to death. In some cases farmers wanted to put them down but had to let them starve because they were not allowed in them in the evacuation zone. In mid May an order was given that all remaining livestock had to be culled.
About 3,400 head of cattle were left in the evacuation zone. Some cattle and livestock was shown on video running loose. Most animals were culled as the farmers had no other choice because they not allowed to move them. In some cases the farmers milked the cows everyday — because if they didn’t the cows would get sick — loaded the milk into a tanker truck and dumped the milk in a pit in the ground, only to have to kill the cows later. One farmer who let his cattle starve told the Yomiuri Shimbun, : Some cows came up to me and mooed forlornly, but I had no means of saving their lies,:
According to a Yomiuri Shimbun article pet dogs in no-entry zone are turning wild. Before the disaster, there were about 5,800 registered dogs in the area that became the no-entry zone, which stretches over a 20-kilometer radius from the plant according to the Fukushima prefectural government and the Environment Ministry. From May 10 to the end of August, the prefectural government captured a total of 323 pets, mainly dogs, that were left leashed at empty houses. The government began trying to capture loose dogs on Sept. 5 and has managed to captured three, but none have been caught in its traps baited with food. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, September 19, 2011]
Even after deducting dogs that were captured by volunteers and those that died in the tsunami or from starvation, hundreds of dogs are believed to still be living within the zone. Experts say dogs that have gone feral are prone to infection and could transmit diseases to people if they leave the zone. Efforts to catch the dogs with traps baited with food have largely been futile. Young dogs born after their parents' owners evacuated are running loose in the zone. "If these puppies become parents, their offspring will be wild dogs with no experience with people," the official said. "We want to catch these puppies before they grow up."
Sneaking Into the Evacuation Zone
Evacuation Shelter Shower Describing people who snuck into the evacuation zone, John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The white minivan stole along back roads, careful to avoid police checkpoints. The pair inside wore face masks and white gloves. They were nervous, furtive even. Their mission: drive up to a home in this deserted town, rush inside and grab what they could. But strong-arm burglary wasn't on the minds of the hooded driver and her passenger. Seiko Nikaido and her 73-year-old mother, Eiko, just wanted to get a little piece of their old lives before it was too late. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2011]
“Evacuated after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the women were fugitives from their own home. “I'm afraid of what's in the air here,” Seiko said. “But I knew we had to come back.” On the drive to town, swaddled in clothing to protect them from nuclear fallout, they entertained a difficult question: How do you reduce a lifetime of memories and possessions into one mad-dash snatch and scramble? “I'm going to get some dishes, clothes and my computer: everyday things I can use to start a new life,” said Seiko, who along with her mother has relocated to just outside Tokyo. “We can come back to collect the rest, the memories; that is, if they ever let us return here again.”"
“The pair weren't the only ones here on stealthy trips back home. At an intersection near the central business district, a few cars and vans passed cautiously, their drivers covered head to toe as a protection against the hazardous elements, as though off on some Arctic expedition. One of the few creatures on foot Tuesday was a small stray dog that nosed its way past an emptied patisserie with a placard in its front window advertising a live Flamenco show for March 20.”
“Hidetoshi Itogawa sat in his sport utility vehicle and shivered in the wind. The whole town, he said, gave him chills. "I'm in a hurry to get back out of here," the 61-year-old said as he puffed on a cigarette. His SUV was packed with the fruits of a two-hour search of his home: clothes, small pieces of furniture, a computer. "I don't even know how to use it," he said, motioning toward a laptop. "It belongs to my wife." Some motorists were in too big of a hurry to stop. When approached, one elderly couple wearing face masks waved frantically from inside their car. "No!" the man said. "We have no time to talk!" Another took a detour rather than be approached.”
“Just down the street, Chieko Yamagata rushed into her family-owned pharmacy to collect some medicine. As she emerged, a quake later measured at magnitude 6.3 shook Namie. Yamagata, 57, let out a yelp as she hurried out into the street. For a moment, she stood among a small group, feeling the ground shake and listening to buildings groan. Later she was more blithe about the shaking, which briefly forced workers to evacuate the nuclear plant.” "It's nothing," she said. "I've experienced a 9.0 earthquake here." She paused. "This town is over," she said. "I'm afraid of this place now. I'm afraid of the entire district."
Areas Within Three Kilometers of Fukushima “Off-Limits for Decades”
In August 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that areas within three kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant likely will be kept off-limits for an extended period — possibly for several decades — because they have been highly contaminated with radioactive substances. The ban on entry to these areas will remain in place even after the 20-kilometer no-go zone around the plant is lifted when the crisis at the nuclear plant is brought under control.
The areas to be kept off-limits will likely include parts of Futabamachi and Okumamachi, both in Fukushima Prefecture. They are within three kilometers of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Japanese government estimated that cumulative radiation levels during the year since the accidents at the plant would greatly exceed 20 millisieverts--the benchmark for designating an expanded evacuation zone--at 35 locations mainly in Okumamachi and Futabamachi in the no-entry zone.
The annual cumulative radiation level was calculated to reach 508.1 millisieverts in the Koirino district of Okumamachi, which is three kilometers west-southwest of the nuclear plant, and 393.7 millisieverts in Ottozawa in the town.
Wild Boars Increasing in Fukushima
Faith Aquino wrote in the Japan Daily News, “As bushes are back growing in Fukushima Prefecture, wild boars are also back and in increasing number. The prefecture’s agriculture is now threatened as the swine extend their food hunting to farmlands. The wild boars have been able to sneak in by hiding among the bushes. They have even entered the 20-km exclusion zone following the Fukushima meltdown. [Source: Faith Aquino, Japan Daily News, September 25, 2013 ***]
“Before the nuclear disaster, Fukushima was clear of bushes, thus depriving wild boars of places to hide. Hunting has also been a frequent activity, which kept the boars from coming to places where people could find and hunt them. But the decreased frequency of hunting have made the wild animals bold enough to go to places they rarely visited before. There were 3,736 wild boars captured in the prefecture during fiscal 2010 but the number increased in fiscal 2012 with a total of 4,856. Based on a study by the Environment Ministry in 2012, almost every area within the 20-km exclusion zone has had wild boars. According to the ministry, “It is very likely that the area of their activities expanded since many people were evacuated [from the exclusion zone] and the number of boars captured is decreasing.” ***
“The number of hunters in Fukushima Prefecture has also decreased over the years. In fiscal 2010, there were 4,779 licensed hunters. The number decreased by one-third in fiscal 2011 with only 3,328 licensed hunters. The number hasn’t increased especially with the discouragement of wild boar meat being reckoned to have also been irradiated. Noriyoshi Kato, a farmer from Onami disctrict in the capital city, return planting rice after the district ban was lifted by the government. However, his rice field has gone nowhere profitable in late August. It was only a month away before harvest, but wild boars came one night to feed on the grains. Although Kato built an electric fence around his paddy, the swine were able to trespass by crawling under the fence. “The boars wouldn’t come near the rice paddies before the accident,” said Kato, referring to the nuclear meltdown.” ***
Everyone living within 15 miles of Fukushima was evacuated; many are still in temporary housing. Some will never be able to return home.
On March 12, the day after the powerful earthquake and tsunami, Japanese authorities began evacuating residents nearby the Fukushima nuclear power plant due to the release of radioactive elements into the environment. At least 210,000 people living with a 10-kilometer radius of the plant were told to evacuate the area. No one forced people to leave. Many stayed.
On March 15, three days after the quake, people living within a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate. This meant an additional 180,000 people — on top of the 200,000 already ordered to move — had to relocate, bringing the total of evacuees at that point to 380,000.
Prime Minister Kan at a disaster shelter
In Mid April, the evacuation area around Fukushima nuclear power plant was extended to include some areas to the north and northwest of the plant that are beyond the 30-kilometer-radius evacuation zone. By this time it was not even known where a good chunk of the evacuees were. Local government said they didn’t know where 40 percent of the residents around the Fukushima nuclear power plant went.
According to surveys taken by 11 municipalities around the power plant in October and November 2011 about 110,000 people evacuated. About 350 were still at shelters in November 2011. AP reported in March 2012: Some 100,000 residents who lived around the plant are in temporary shelters or with relatives, unsure of when they will be able to return to their homes.A 12-mile (20-kilometre) zone around the complex and an adjacent area remains off limits. Pilot efforts to make radiation-contaminated land around the plant inhabitable again have begun, using everything from shovels and high-powered water guns to chemicals that absorb radiation. But it is a monumental, costly project fraught with uncertainty, and experts cannot guarantee it will be successful. The Environment Ministry expects it will generate at least 130 million cubic yards (100 million cubic meters) of soil, enough to fill 80 domed baseball stadiums. [Source: AP, March 12, 2012]
In January 2013, the mayor of Futaba, where Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is located, said that residents of the town can expect to return home in 30 years. Jiji Press reported: “All residents of the town were forced to evacuate after the crisis broke out at the nuclear plant in March 2011. The whole town has since been designated as a no-entry zone. Speaking to municipal officials at the relocated town office Futaba Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa said the tentative goal is to get the residents back home in 30 years. [Source: Jiji Press, January 7, 2013]
Discrimination Against Evacuees from the Fukushima Radiation Zone
John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Some of the public's fears are well researched, others less so. Sociologists report a "social stigmatization" of evacuees from the area around the Fukushima plant. Evacuees in Tokyo and elsewhere have been looked on with suspicion as potentially exposing their new neighbors to radiation. Apartment dwellers have complained of cooking smells or noises that were unusual only in that they were produced by former Fukushima residents. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2012]
Experts say such responses to radiation aren't new in Japan, the only country that has suffered a nuclear attack. "After the bombing of Hiroshima, female survivors were seen as damaged and had a hard time finding husbands," said Akira Tokuhiro, a Tokyo native and professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Idaho. "With Japan's nuclear history, the stigma switch is easy to turn on."
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Verbal abuse and other forms of harassment have added to the psychological burden of evacuees from areas around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, as rumors continue to stoke radiation fears. In one case, a primary school boy from Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, who had transferred to a school in Chiba Prefecture was asked by a teacher at the new school, "Are you going to keep it secret that you come from Fukushima Prefecture?" The boy's mother, who had accompanied her son to the school, did not understand what the teacher meant, and said there was no need to do so. The boy then took a seat in front of the teacher's desk but no one sat next to him. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2011]
A primary school girl, who evacuated from Minami-Soma to Gunma Prefecture, is refusing to go to school after her new classmates at a Gunma school would not go near her and made nasty remarks behind her back. Funabashi city's board of education in Chiba Prefecture reportedly was informed of a case in which local children in a park said that radiation would be passed onto them by boys from Minami-Soma.
A transportation company in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, has been asked by its clients not to use trucks with Iwaki license plates because of radiation leaks at the nuclear plant. The company has been forced to rent trucks in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture and transship goods. "If our clients ask us not to come into their areas with Iwaki license plates we have no choice but to comply," the 61-year-old company president said. "It's so unreasonable."
A Saitama Prefecture-based company that has a factory in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, asked employees to use Saitama Prefecture license plates after an employee driving a car with Fukushima plates was turned away from gas stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area and elsewhere. The Tsukuba municipal government in Ibaraki Prefecture reportedly asked people moving from Fukushima Prefecture to submit official documents that show they had undergone radiation screenings. After this came to light, the city government dropped the requirement and the city's mayor apologized.
After the Kawasaki municipal government expressed its intention to accept waste materials from Fukushima Prefecture generated in the aftermath of last month's earthquake and tsunami, it received nearly 5,000 complaints from local residents fearing the waste would be contaminated with radioactive substances. Tamotsu Nomura, a senior official of the Radiation Effects Association, said: "[These] harmful rumors are totally groundless from a scientific viewpoint. The situation in which not only children but also adults are overreacting is unusual."
Living with Radiation and a Fukushima Mortgage
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: Yusuke Tataki, a Fukushima worker, " lives in a suburban stretch of undulating, bamboo-filled hills twenty-five miles from the plant, and he was worried about what the meltdowns might mean for the future of Fukushima. “I know how bad an accident is,” he said. Three days after the quake — when buildings were still exploding at the plant — Tataki loaded up his family and drove them away. They returned, two weeks later, only because school was starting. “If we didn’t have the house, we would leave and not come back,” Tataki said. “But I have a mortgage, and who’s going to buy a place in Fukushima now?” Relocating posed its own fears; the rumor around town was that being from Fukushima might become a stigma, just as being from Hiroshima was for survivors of the atomic bomb. “If we go to Tokyo and our kids have accents, other children will figure out right away where they’re from.” His mood darkened. He said, “The government won’t tell people to evacuate, because then it would have to compensate everyone.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 17, 2011]
Homeowners in Fukushima drove on the weekends to places with relatively low radiation levels so their children can freely play outside. In September 2011, students returned to school in Fukushima Prefecture after the summer vacation with dosimeters. Dosimeters were distributed to 26,300 primary and middle school students to help monitor and limit their radiation exposure.
All residents of Fukushima Prefecture who were under 18 at the time of the Fukushima nuclear crisis while have their thyroids tested every two to five years for their entire lives. The checks will involve 360,000 people.
Beautiful Fukushima Nuclear Ghost Towns
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: When the government finally released a map of the fallout, it became clear that some of the heaviest concentrations were in the tiny village of Iitate (pop. 6,200), twenty-five miles northwest of the plant. Less than a year earlier, it had been named one of “Japan’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages.” It was given an official order to evacuate at the end of May. When I stopped by, on the day before the deadline, a traffic light was blinking without a soul around. At the village hall, where moving companies had taped their phone numbers to the windows, Vice-Mayor Shinichi Monma, born and reared in the town, was maintaining an air of crisp efficiency. “Unfortunately,” he said, “our residents were irradiated.”
When the oldest man in town — a hundred and two years old — heard the news, he killed himself, rather than flee, the papers reported. In front of the village hall, a machine that looked like an oversized parking meter flashed a real-time radiation reading in large red digits: 7.71 microsieverts . . . 8.12 . . . 7.57. Being there was equivalent to receiving a chest X-ray every twelve hours. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 17, 2011]
In addition to its beauty, Iitate was known for its beef. Now the villagers had to kill their cows — nearly three thousand of them. Nobody wanted to see pictures of them wandering, skinny and abandoned, like the animals in some other evacuated towns. To guard against looters, the villagers had agreed to take turns patrolling in the months ahead. Village leaders were saying that they expected to return to their homes within two years. But the vice-mayor conceded to me, “There’s nothing to back that up; it’s just for the villagers’ morale. If people are told it will be more than two years, they might never come back.” The central government avoided making any predictions, but five months after the quake it acknowledged that areas within three kilometres of the plant will likely be uninhabitable for decades.
Lucille Craft wrote in National Geographic, “Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about the town of Namie is that at first glance nothing seems amiss. The blue-green meadows look lush. The gently flowing Takase and Ukedo Rivers glitter in the sun. The barbershop, train station, and fried-pork restaurant seem ready for business, a universe apart from the havoc and wholesale destruction visited on towns farther up the coast. In the states of Miyagi and Iwate, clocks washed ashore frozen at roughly 3:15 p.m., when the tsunami swallowed towns whole; in the humble fishing town of Namie the clocks go right on ticking. [Source: Lucille Craft, National Geographic, December 2011]
Namie is one of five towns, two cities, and two villages that lie partially or wholly within a 12.4-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — designated by the government as a no-go zone. Like all the towns in the nuclear exclusion zone, it essentially no longer exists. Of its 21,000 residents, 7,500 have scattered across Japan. Another 13,500 live in temporary housing in the Fukushima region. They're among more than 70,000 "nuclear refugees" displaced by the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Refugees from Fukushima Nuclear Ghost Town
Lucille Craft wrote in National Geographic, “The de facto demise of Namie began in the chaotic hours after the quake struck on March 11. Namie is shaped like a bow tie, radiating northwest from Fukushima Daiichi. Guided by news of the unfolding nuclear accident on TV and by local officials, townsfolk drove to the highlands, the center of the bow. Heading for the hills is a lifesaving instinct for Japanese conditioned by centuries of tsunamis, but in this case it turned out to be a terrible strategy. Residents fled smack into the plume of air carrying radioactive debris. They crammed into shelters with little food until the 15th, after another explosion sent them fleeing farther west to the city of Nihonmatsu. [Source: Lucille Craft, National Geographic, December 2011]
"The forgotten town" was how the July issue of the popular magazine Bungei Shunju described Namie, which never received official orders to evacuate, even as hydrogen explosions at units 1 and 3 spewed toxic particles across the Fukushima area. "We weren't forgotten," says Naka Shimizu, the mayor's aide. "We were ignored."
Swathed in white protective masks and suits, residents are bused into the zone on rare occasions to retrieve valuables and check on their homes. The trips are brief — roughly two to three hours — to minimize radiation exposure. Some families plan these forays with military precision, but Junko and Yukichi Shimizu, who shared their home with their son's family, including a two-year-old grandson, are plainly overwhelmed as they move slowly about their spacious home. On July 26 I spent half an hour with the couple during a day of driving and walking through the forlorn town.
Yukichi, 62, dejectedly tapes windows as he looks at his beloved garden, now gone to seed. Junko, 59, dusts the family's Buddhist altar and gathers the few small items they're permitted to bring out of the zone: photos, Chinese herbal medicines, her daughter's kimono. She leaves behind their Buddhist memorial tablets. "There's no one else to protect our house," she says.
Namie's town hall has decamped to makeshift offices in Nihonmatsu. Its officials continue to issue birth certificates, keep track of the increasingly far-flung inhabitants, and consult experts about the radioactive cesium that has rendered Namie's 86 square miles uninhabitable.
Many residents had held out hope they might return once Fukushima Daiichi is stabilized, but prospects are grim. While Tepco, operator of the crippled plant, hopes the complex will be brought under control by the New Year, residents will not be allowed back in the foreseeable future, and the government is mulling plans to buy their homes.
As the soft rays of dusk cast a warm glow over the downtown landscape, a cool ocean breeze ruffles our suffocating Tyvek suits. For just a moment it is possible to forget that the Geiger counter hit a level about 600 times normal, a few miles down Route 6. Yukichi Shimizu, who used to farm rice and work in construction, is plaintive as he surveys his lovely but lifeless hometown. "Could it really be that unsafe to live here?"
Compensation Plan for Evacuees
In May the government said that it plans to start paying compensation to people affected by the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant by around the fall. About 200,000 residents as well as factories, farmers and fishermen in the area, are expected to file compensation claims totaling billions of dollars. The Japanese government said it would take responsibility for the livelihoods of people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis.
In May the Japanese government announced a plan to help TEPCO compensate the victims of the disaster. The move would save TEPCO from financial collapse. But the plan would require the company to repay in full all payments due to victims of the accident. The company had hoped that payouts might be capped. “We must makes sure that the compensation is adequate, but we must also keep the financial burden on the public to a minimum,” Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters.[Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times May 12, 2011]
Hiroko Tabuchiwrote in the New York Times, “Executives at TEPCO and government officials have been wrangling for weeks over who should pay for the accident at Fukushima. The government, in particular, has wanted to prevent the company from raising electricity rates to pay for compensation claims, in effect passing on the accident’s costs to its customers. But Prime Minister Naoto Kan also said this week that the state, which has long promoted nuclear energy, should assume some responsibility. The plan needs to be approved by the nation’s divided parliament to go into effect.”
“The plan calls for the government to issue special-purpose bonds to help finance a plan that would pay out compensation, according to a statement issued by the Trade Ministry. Other utilities in Japan would be required to contribute to the fund, which would also act as an insurance body to cover any future nuclear accidents, the statement said.
TEPCO “would be required to pay back the fund over time. But the fund would ensure that the utility is able to make sufficient investments to provide electricity for the Japanese capital and surrounding regions, where it holds a near monopoly. At the same time, Tepco would be required to make aggressive cost cuts, like selling real estate and other assets, the ministry statement said. The negotiations and procedures to work out compensation is expected to take months. TEPCO and the government have been urged to make provisional payments in the meantime.
By rescuing TEPCO from what could have been crippling claims, the plan provides a degree of protection to holders of Tepco shares and bonds, circumventing chaos in financial markets. The company’s shares have lost three-quarters of their value since the crisis began. Tepco raised about 2 trillion yen from financial institutions in March, but much of that will go toward decommissioning the damaged reactors.
China's Wen Jiabao and Kan at a disaster shelter
TEPCO Compensation to Evacuees of the Fukushima Crisis
In August 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, TEPCO announced compensation details to be paid to people affected by the crisis at the utility's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. TEPCO will pay 120,000 yen per month for causing psychological damage to residents forced to evacuate under the government's order, according to the criteria released Tuesday. It also stipulates methods to calculate transportation and accommodation fees for evacuated residents as well as payments for companies and people engaged in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries businesses. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, September 1, 2011]
TEPCO expects between 400,000 and 500,000 households and companies will be eligible for the compensation. The utility plans to start accepting requests from Sept. 12 and begin payments in early October. The criteria were based on an interim guideline compiled on Aug. 5 by the government's Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation.
On an individual level, TEPCO will pay: 1) 5,000 yen per trip when the person evacuated within the prefecture; 2) up to 8,000 yen per night for accommodation; 3) 15,000 yen for each radiation screening test; 4) difference in pre-crisis and current income.
For example, if a family of four--a couple and two children--with a monthly salary of 270,000 yen before the crisis lost their jobs, were ordered to evacuate from their house to a school gym within the prefecture and then moved to a temporary housing unit, the family would receive 4.51 million yen for the period up to the end of August.To companies, schools, hospitals and agricultural, forestry and fishery businesses, TEPCO will pay compensation for business loss due to the evacuation, shipment bans as well as losses caused by harmful rumors. The compensation covers the period between March 11 and the end of August. Subsequent compensation requests will be accepted every three months.
At that time TEPCO had made temporary payments totaling 112.2 billion yen to about 150,000 people from 56,000 households and companies.To handle payments, TEPCO will increase the number of employees providing consultation and processing payments to 6,500--more than five times the current number--by October.
TEPCO will have to pay an estimated ¥4.54 trillion (about $530 billion) in damages over the two-year period following the outbreak of the Fukushima disaster according to a government panel scrutinizing the utility's financial state. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 1, 2011]
Many Fukushima Evacuees “Won't Go Home”
In November 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “More than a quarter of evacuees from eight municipalities around Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant do not wish to return to their original residences, according to a survey. The younger the respondents, the less likely they were to wish to return to their pre-crisis addresses. More than half of those aged 34 or younger said they would not return. The survey was conducted by Fukushima University on all evacuees' households from the eight towns and villages in the Futaba-gun region of Fukushima Prefecture. [Yomiuri Shimbun, November 10, 2011]
The survey was conducted in September with cooperation from the eight municipal governments. Questionnaires were mailed to the 28,184 households who evacuated to other places in the prefecture and outside of the prefecture. Of them, 13,463 households responded. Asked about the circumstances under which they would return to their original residences, 26.9 percent of all respondents said they had no intention to return. Only 4.9 percent said they would return as soon as radiation levels fall below safety standards set by the central government.
By age group, 52.3 percent of those aged 34 or younger and 36.5 percent of those aged 35 to 49 said they did not intend to return at all. Among those 65 to 79 years old, 16.8 percent said they would not return and 13.1 percent of those aged 80 or older replied so. When asked about how long they would likely wait until returning to their original residences, 37.4 percent said one to two years, and 14.6 percent said they would wait indefinitely.
As for why they did not wish to return, 83.1 percent said they thought decontamination of areas polluted by radiation spewed out by the nuclear power plant would be difficult, and 65.7 percent said they could not trust the government's declarations about safe levels of radiation. The survey permitted multiple answers.
Fuminori Tanba, an associate professor at the university who conducted the survey, said, "I assume they replied they will not return mainly because it remains unknown when they will be able to return home."
Population Nearly Halved in the former Evacuation Zone
The population of an area where people were advised to evacuate after the Fukushima crisis but were later given permission to return has nearly halved according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey. According to the survey, 59,000 people lived in the five municipalities before the earthquake, but about 30,000 have since evacuated the area. In Hirono, Naraha and Kawauchi, where municipal governments asked residents to evacuate based on their own judgment, the population dramatically declined. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun. May 12, 2012]
“The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The central government lifted the emergency evacuation preparation zone designation on September 30, 2011, allowing residents to return home without any restrictions. As of May 2012, only about 2,200 residents in total have returned home. As a result, the total population in these municipalities has decreased to 54 percent of what it was before the earthquake.
“There are various reasons why evacuees have not returned home. Beside concerns about high radiation levels, some said their places of work had been closed, while others said their children had settled in at new schools in the cities they had evacuated to.
In January 2012 the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that 54 percent of evacuees from areas between 20 and 30 kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have yet to return home, three months after the government lifted its emergency evacuation preparation zones. Due to slow progress in decontamination operations and a lack of job opportunities in the five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, 31,600, or 54 percent, out of a total 59,049 evacuees from the areas near the crippled plant continued to live in shelters instead of returning home as of December 2011. In Minami-Soma City alone, 22,983, or about 50 percent of 46,744 evacuees from the city, still remain outside the city. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 1, 2011]
Masahiro Igawa, 33, whose house in the city's Haramachi Ward was swept away by the March 11 tsunami, evacuated to Fukushima City with his wife and four children. "Though decontamination operations have started, areas around schools still show high radiation levels, and hospitals have not been restored to original conditions. We can't go home even if we want to, out of consideration for our children," he said.
People Who Left Fukushima
In January 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: 31,400 people had moved out of Fukushima Prefecture after the disaster, a 5.6-fold jump from 2010. The population outflow was calculated based on population estimates announced monthly by each prefecture. The figure represents the total number of residents who left the prefectures minus those who moved in. Officials believe the actual figure could be even higher because some people might have moved to other prefectures without changing their resident registrations. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, January 12, 2011]
According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, carried out prior to the one-year anniversary of March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, 57 percent of those survey in Fukushima Prefecture said they wanted to return to their hometowns. This contrasts with the 87 percent who felt this way in the one-month survey, 71 percent after three months and 65 percent after six months. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, March 12, 2012]
Evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture still are deeply concerned about radioactive substances and basic living standards such as jobs and houses. They expressed serious concern about their health and children's education if they remain evacuees for a long time. One evacuee said, "We want the government to provide us with a clearer picture of the future, even it's negative, so that we can restart our lives."
About 25 percent of Fukushima Prefecture evacuees in temporary housing wanted to move farther from the disaster-hit areas, an increase from 21 percent in the previous survey. The number of people responding like this has been increasing in each survey. Asked why, 67 percent of evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture said they were concerned about radiation, while 55 percent said "restoration of the areas where we used to live is not possible," up from 47 percent in the previous survey. The figures indicate an increasing number of people have given up hope of returning home.
Many Evacuees Not Seeking Work
Koji Sobata and Hiroaki Ishihara wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “About 20 percent of survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture have either not obtained or are not searching for jobs after their extended period to receive unemployment insurance benefits expired, according to the welfare ministry.The percentages of such people in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures were below 10 percent. [Source: Koji Sobata and Hiroaki Ishihara, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2012]
“These figures are believed to reflect the fact that evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture, who were forced to leave their hometowns after the outbreak of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, are hesitant to take jobs because they are uncertain about the future.
“Jobless benefits are provided to unemployed workers under the unemployment insurance system. On the condition that recipients engage in job-hunting activities at least twice a month, benefits are provided every four weeks. The amount of benefits ranges from 50 percent to 80 percent of the beneficiary's average wage during the six months immediately prior to losing the last job.The period of benefit payments depends on the recipient's age, length of period covered by the unemployment insurance scheme and reasons for leaving the job. Benefits generally last between 90 days and 330 days. Given their unstable living circumstances in the wake of the crisis, evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture expressed mixed feelings about getting new jobs.
“Kanji Sato, 52, evacuated from Namie, which was entirely located in the no-entry zone or expanded evacuation zone, to Fukushima city, where he lives in a temporary housing unit."As I don't know when I'll be able to return home, it's impossible for me to get a job in a place that's temporary," he said. Sato worked part-time at a municipal school but lost the job after the disaster. He and his wife had received a total of 200,000 yen a month in unemployment benefits, but the benefits expired in early April.
Many Fukushima Evacuees Had Yet to Return Home Two Years After the Disaster
In June 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Nearly 60 percent of evacuees from areas that previously recorded high radiation readings in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, continue living as evacuees, even six months after it was declared safe for residents to return. It has been six months since the government lifted the “specific spots recommended for evacuation” designation on 129 households in the city and the village of Kawauchi, also in the prefecture. Residents in both municipalities are trying hard to recover community bonds. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 15, 2013 ^*^]
“The areas containing these households were not included in either the “no-entry zone” or the “expanded evacuation zone” imposed after the nuclear crisis triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The government designated these households’ residences as “specific spots recommended for evacuation” because a person living there for one year could be exposed to accumulated radiation levels of more than 20 millisieverts.^*^
“The government decision affected 485 people from 128 households in Date and 3 people from one household in Kawauchi. The family of three returned to Kawauchi and now live in temporary housing, but 284 evacuees from Date have not returned yet. In the Oguni district in Date, where 90 households were affected, rice planting has been allowed from this year, but weeds grow thick in many of the rice paddies. Farmer Yoshitaka Sato, 75, whose house had the designation lifted, did not plant rice again this year because of radiation fears. “If consumers can’t enjoy eating my rice, there’s no point in growing it,” Sato, the head of a residents’ association, said with a sigh. ^*^
“In the Oguni district, decontamination work to reduce radiation levels on roads and houses has been completed. But Sato’s daughter, 45, and grandson, 7, still live in a rented house more than 10 kilometers away in the city. “Unless we make this place attractive, young people won’t come back,” Sato said. On June 7, 15 representatives of the district’s residents, including Sato, held a meeting to discuss how to revitalize the area. They proposed various ideas, such as using natural energy and promoting greenhouse or hydroponic farming, which are less likely to be affected by radiation. They also decided to send out questionnaires to all the households in the area to learn residents’ opinions. Date Mayor Shoji Nishida is still angry the community was shattered due to differences in the amount of compensation received, depending on whether the households concerned were designated as specific spots. ^*^
“Meanwhile, the family from Kawauchi--a married couple and their 3-year-old son--whose home was designated as such a spot returned from evacuation in Niigata to the village in June last year. “I love the great nature of this village, so I definitely wanted to come back,” the 46-year-old father of the family said. But they remain in temporary housing. “Radiation levels are still high in the mountains behind our house. We can’t return to our home unless the forests are decontaminated,” he complained. ^*^
Image Sources: Kantei, Office of Japanese Prime Minister, U.S. Navy TEPCO
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, Daily Yomiuri, Japan Times, Mainichi Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated August 2020