12 Juillet 2016
July 12, 2016
FUKUSHIMA – The government on Tuesday lifted the evacuation order for all but a tiny slice of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, allowing more than 10,000 people to return to homes that have been off-limits since the 2011 nuclear crisis.
The city is now habitable except for one area containing one house, but many residents appear uneager to return, having begun new lives elsewhere.
To encourage evacuees to return, the central government and the city reopened hospital facilities, built makeshift commercial facilities and prepared other infrastructure.
The newly opened areas have 3,487 households.
Radiation cleanup activities have finished in residential areas but will continue for roads and farmland until next March.
The government is in the process of gradually lifting evacuation orders in areas within 20 km of the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear facility and in certain areas beyond the zone amid ongoing radiation cleanup efforts.
Eight municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have areas defined as evacuation zones, which are divided into three categories based on their radiation levels. The most seriously contaminated areas are called zones “where it is expected that the residents have difficulties in returning for a long time.”
The government hopes to lift the remaining evacuation orders affecting areas other than the difficult-to-return zones by next March, officials said.
An evacuation order has been lifted for most parts of a city in Fukushima Prefecture following the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Minamisoma City became the 5th and largest-ever municipality to have its evacuation order lifted since the disaster.
The evacuation order for the city's districts of Odaka and Haramachi was lifted on Tuesday.
One household is still barred from returning because its area has a relatively high level of radiation.
About 10,800 residents are now allowed to return to their homes.
The city must deal with a declining and aging population. Young people moved out of the city following the nuclear accident.
The local government is trying to mitigate public concern about radiation, improve the medical welfare system and transportation network, and attract commercial facilities.
More than 5 years on, evacuation orders are still in place in several other municipalities in the prefecture. About 90,000 people are still taking shelter in Fukushima and elsewhere.
July 12, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
MINAMISOMA, Fukushima -- Some 10,000 Minamisoma residents of this city were officially permitted to return home after Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuation orders covering parts of the city were lifted on July 12.
Eleven municipalities near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant were evacuated after the March 2011 meltdowns, but this is the first order to be lifted covering so many people. However, as five years and four months have passed since the disaster and concerns about radiation persist, many evacuees have already put down roots elsewhere, and only a portion of residents are expected to return.
The order covered 3,487 households totaling 10,807 people in the city's southern Odaka and Haramachi wards. Only one household of two people in a high-radiation area was not cleared to return. However, as of July 10 only 2,006 people from 691 households had registered to stay in the area in preparation for moving back. Many problems face the city, such as how to sustain communities where most child-bearing-age residents have not returned and elderly residents predominate.
July 12 also marked the resumption of train services on the JR Joban Line on the 9.4 kilometer stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi stations. Many passengers this day were gazing out the train windows at the rural landscape, while residents could be seen by the tracks holding a banner reading "Welcome back" and waving.
At a ceremony at Odaka Station for the lifting of the evacuation order, Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said, "This is not the end of our reconstruction, it is the beginning."
Sachiko Shoji, 60, who evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie to temporary housing in Minamisoma's Haramachi Ward, said after riding on the Joban Line, "This train line is memorable for me as the one I used to go from Namie to Haramachi to attend barber school. As I saw the nostalgic scenery, I thought that I, too, have to keep trying to move forward."
The parts of the Joban Line still closed to service -- between Soma Station in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, and Hamayoshida Station in Watari, Miyagi Prefecture, and between Tatsuta Station in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, and Odaka Station -- are to be reopened this year and by March 2020, respectively.