” Eight years after fleeing their homes after a tsunami caused Fukushima’s nuclear power plant to go into meltdown, just a tiny trickle have braved returning to the evacuation zone.
Local officials paint a rosy picture, but few of the 100,000 evacuees have reclaimed their homes, offices, schools and streets from weaving weeds and roaming wild boars.
Three reactors went into meltdown after the 2011 Japanese tsunami sparked the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
Radiation leaks left an apocalyptic vision of ghost towns and overgrown wildernesses, and scared residents refusing to go home.
Nevertheless, the Japanese government is keen for evacuees to return as soon, as it claims, is safe to do so.
In fact, it is so desperate to recover quickly from the disaster it has ploughed at least £21billion into the epic clean up.
A huge army of more than 70,000 workers have scooped away topsoil, removed tree branches and dug up grass in areas near homes, schools and public buildings in a bid to decontaminate.
Millions upon millions of cubic metres of radioactive soil has been poured into bags. They are then removed and safely stored.
All the while in a town nearby a Saga arcade slowly fades, with dust blanketing everything, while elsewhere vegetation creeps and crawls into nooks and crannies, floors and doors.
Some places on the other hand look eerily unaffected, frozen in time.
There are streets and offices perfectly preserved — as if one day humanity suddenly vanished.
Progress IS being made in the clean-up, however.
This month radiation levels in parts of the town Okuma, west of the crippled nuclear plant, have been deemed safe for its residents to return home.
The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited to mark the milestone.
Yet according to local reports just 367 residents of Okuma’s original population of 10,341 have so far said they are going to return home.
Parts of the town remains off-limits until about 2022.
Despite all this the mayor of Okuma was upbeat when speaking to Japanese reporters.
He said: “It has taken many years to get to where we are now, but I am happy that we made it.”
CAMPAIGN TO CONVINCE EVACUEES TO RETURN
This comes amid a big push to persuade people to go home and pick up where they left off.
But many residents have voted with their feet — that is to say they’ve stayed away.
They and campaigners, along nuclear experts across the globe, believe it is just not safe.
Japanese authorities are accused of wanting to allay public fears over nuclear power by downplaying the dire consequences of the leak.
Some critics have also accused the Japanese government of talking up residents’ return as part of a public relations exercise ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But despite the bad publicity a nuclear disaster on this scale has obviously brought, officials say new figures show the largest year-on-year growth in foreign visitors to Fukushima.
The Japanese Times is now reporting tourism was up roughly 2.4 times from the same month the previous year.
This comes after the number foreign lodgers in the region reached 120,250 last year which breached 100,000 line since the nuclear crisis.
A Fukushima prefecture spokesman said: “We hope to utilize every possible means to promote the prefecture’s attractiveness as a tourist destination to bring in more visitors.”
by Patrick Knox, The Sun
source with some good photos