” FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Some 10,000 children whose families fled Fukushima Prefecture because of the March 2011 nuclear disaster have yet to return, prefectural government officials said Thursday.
Five years after the earthquake and ensuing tsunami triggered the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, families with children continue to have serious reservations about environmental safety, according to a recent survey by the prefectural government.
As of last October, the number of such minors who have evacuated to areas outside the prefecture stood at 10,557. Among them, 4,760 were from 12 coastal municipalities designated as evacuation zones in the nuclear crisis, the survey said. The prefecture has 59 municipalities.
With young people absent from those areas, reconstruction may be difficult in the future, experts say.
“We need to implement more measures to improve the child-rearing environment (for their parents) to enable those children to return home” because the children are with their families, a prefectural government official of the children and youth division said.
The prefectural government has allocated subsidies to make medical costs free for children under 18 since October 2012. Since last year, the local government subsidizes moving expenses for those evacuees who want to return to their hometowns.
Some families are estimated to have transferred their resident registration to the municipalities to which they have fled, most likely making the actual number of evacuee minors from Fukushima higher, prefectural government officials said.
There were about 18,000 child evacuees as of April 2012. The number gradually declined after evacuation orders for some municipalities were lifted because radiation doses have dropped due to decontamination works. As of Feb. 1, the prefecture’s population stood at around 1.91 million. ”