Japanese town remains deserted after Fukushima meltdown

Tokyo (IANS) Five years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan which triggered three nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the coastal fishing village of Namie remains a ghost town.

Black bags of radioactive waste line the vacant streets, while the dirt-blackened windows of the once-vibrant shops are boarded up. A waste facility stocked with contaminated soil and debris stands where the train station used to be, EFE news reported on Thursday.

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“Even the rats finally left our house, maybe because there is nothing to eat anymore!” said Yuzo Mihara, an older evacuee who left Namie with his wife but returns periodically to gather belongings for his family’s new life in Chiba prefecture, some 235 km away.

Of the 21,000 people forced to abandon Namie after it was designated one of the seven towns and two cities inside the disaster exclusion zone (within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukishima Daiichi nuclear plant), the majority have said they will not return.

Seventy percent have settled in other parts of Fukushima, and the rest are dispersed around the country, according to a town hall survey in September 2011.

But the municipal town hall plans to create a new future by clearing away the wreckage and reconstructing Namie by March 2017.

Namie is one of the few areas in the exclusion zone that has a foreseeable future.

Others, such as Tomioka – 10 km south of the devastated plant and the former home of nearly 6,300 families – has now become a no-man’s land, with roads leading only to dead ends and ruins.

With some 174,471 people countrywide still living in shelters, Japan continues to struggle to recover from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The catastrophic March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown killed an estimated 15,984 people nationwide, according to the National Police Agency.

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