6 Avril 2017
April 5, 2017
By NORIYOSHI OTSUKI/ Senior Staff Writer
The minister in charge of rebuilding Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster unfolded stormed out of a news conference after he faced repeated questions on the government’s responsibilities to locals who choose not to return home.
Masahiro Imamura said that the central government is no longer responsible for those people from areas not under evacuation orders at the news conference on April 4.
When a journalist pressed Imamura on the issue, the minister snapped at him saying, “You are rude and should never come to another news conference,” before pounding a desk, shouting “Shut up!” and abruptly leaving the Q&A session.
Imamura later apologized to reporters for becoming “emotional,” but did not retract his earlier remark, saying he made an “objective statement.”
Asked about the government’s responsibility for providing assistance to the so-called voluntary evacuees at the news conference in Tokyo, Imamura said: “They are responsible for their lives. They can file a lawsuit or do other things (if they disagree with the central government’s position).”
He added that the central government had done all it could to help, and that those who would not return to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture should take full responsibility for their actions.
Voluntary evacuees refer primarily to mothers and children from Fukushima Prefecture who fled to faraway regions even though they were not forced to evacuate.
The number of such people totaled 30,000 across Japan as of last October, according to the Fukushima prefectural government.
Concerns about their well-being have been mounting since the central and prefectural governments stopped funding free housing to those evacuees at the end of last month.
Support groups said the end of the free housing assistance could lead to a division among Fukushima people.
Locals who fled on a voluntary basis are eligible to receive limited support from the central government and compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, compared with their peers from the designated evacuation zone.