Evacuation order lifted for Fukushima town 11 years after nuclear disaster

TOKYO (XINHUA) – An evacuation order for a town hosting Japan’s disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was lifted on Tuesday (Aug 30), 11 years after the severe nuclear accident, with only a few former residents expected to return.

The mandatory evacuation order for the Fukushima Prefecture town – where the Tokyo Electric Power Company complex was located – was issued after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit Japan’s northeast on March 11, 2011.

The quake and tsunami caused core meltdowns at multiple nuclear reactors and made the area uninhabitable due to high levels of radiation.

The town, Futaba, is the last municipality to see an evacuation order lifted among 11 municipalities subject to such orders following the quake-induced disaster, with the municipal government aiming to increase its population to 2,000 by around 2030.

Although residents are now allowed to return home, more than 80 per cent of Futaba’s total land area remains designated as “difficult-to-return” zones.

The parts reopened for habitation are located in the town’s previously downtown area and its northeast where many commercial and public facilities are situated.

In addition, a survey last year found that 60.5 per cent of the residents had decided not to return, compared to the 11.3 per cent who expressed a desire to return, Kyodo News reported.

As of late July, 3,574 people from 1,449 households, or more than 60 per cent of the town’s population, were registered as residents of the two areas.

But the number of residents who participated in a preparatory programme that started in January and allowing them to return temporarily totalled just 85 people from 52 households, the report said.