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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

How many will really return home?

March 10, 2016


FIVE YEARS AFTER: 1 in 3 Fukushima evacuees giving up hope of ever returning home



More than one in three evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster despair of ever returning home, a finding that points to a growing sense of hopelessness five years after the crisis unfolded.

This stark reality emerged in a survey carried out by The Asahi Shimbun and a research team headed by Akira Imai, a professor of local government policy at Fukushima University.

“There are so many people (outside Fukushima) today who are not aware that many people are still forced to live as evacuees,” a 34-year-old woman responded in the survey questionnaire. “No matter how we try to explain our plight, they seem unable to understand, and we feel saddened to realize that people tend to think we live outside our hometowns out of our own choice.”

Many respondents also wrote they were troubled by a perceived envy from other residents in their new communities over the compensation they receive from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In the survey, of those who remain evacuated, 22 percent said they think they can return to their old homes within five years, 17 percent believe they can return home within 10 years and 9 percent said it might take up to 20 years.

Fourteen percent said it will take 21 years or longer to return home, while the remaining 38 percent said they believed they would never be able to return permanently.

As of March 9, the number of Fukushima residents living as evacuees within Fukushima Prefecture stood at 54,175. On Feb. 12, prefectural authorities reported that 43,149 evacuees were living outside the prefecture.

It was the fifth such survey by The Asahi Shimbun and Imai's research team and was undertaken to mark the fifth anniversary of the nuclear accident, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, on March 11.

Questionnaires were sent to 398 evacuees who had responded to previous polls. Of the 225 respondents in Tokyo and 20 prefectures, 36, or 16 percent, said they had returned to their old homes.

Among those who remain evacuated, 65 people currently live in temporary housing for disaster victims, followed by 52 who have settled in homes they newly purchased.

Forty-one percent of those who remain evacuated said they want to eventually return to their old homes when their hometowns become safe, while 25 percent said they no longer want to return because it is unlikely the areas will ever be safe again.

The survey showed that evacuees are increasingly losing the will to hold on in their current plight, with only 32 percent of respondents saying they are determined to hold on, down from 55 percent in the previous survey in 2013.

Eighteen percent said they are losing the will to hold on. The same percentage said they are tormented by simmering anger. Both figures were up from the previous survey.

(This article was written by Takuro Negishi and Kenji Izawa.)



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