” TOMIOKA, Fukushima Prefecture–Papers filled with nuclear-related information, unfinished rice balls and protective masks remain scattered in a facility here, testament to the rapid retreat of an entire town early in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Tomioka town officials used the facility, known as the cultural exchange center, as an emergency response center immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the coast and swamped the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011.
They all had to flee the following day.
The center has remained as was in March 2011, and the public on Dec. 13 was allowed to enter the facility for the first time to get an idea of what had happened.
“I was stunned by what I saw here, which was a reminder of the chaos that took place at that time,” said Masato Miura, a 65-year-old from Iwaki who joined the tour of about 20 participants.
He said he had previously visited the building when he worked for a subcontractor of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the nuclear plant, when the nation’s worst nuclear accident was unfolding.
The tour was organized by a committee that promotes the preservation of remains of the Fukushima disaster to educate the public about the damage done to Tomioka. The committee gathers and stores data on the magnitude-9.0 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The town government building lost power in the disaster and decided to use the facility as the control center for the disaster response.
Tomioka is within a radius of 20 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The town co-hosts TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, which was also hit by the tsunami but did not suffer damage to its reactors.
On March 12, 2011, an evacuation order was issued as the nuclear crisis worsened, and all town workers and 16,000 residents had to leave the area by evening.
The town employees left behind their notes, garbage, food and protective gear in their flight from the facility. Tomioka residents are still living in evacuation today, although they are allowed to make day-trips to their hometown.
The committee is trying to keep records of the facility by producing a layout of things left there and documenting what was written on white boards and papers.
The public may not get another opportunity to view the rooms littered with papers and other remnants from the disaster.
The town government, which has been operating primarily from Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, plans to renovate the building whose interior has become seriously dilapidated. ”