Evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster moved to different shelters an average of four times and traveled 273 kilometers during the month after the crisis unfolded in March 2011, a survey showed.
The joint survey by the University of Tokyo and Nagoya University on about 10,000 evacuees showed that they traveled an average of 57 km during their first relocation, mainly to their relatives’ homes or evacuation centers.
Their second attempt to find shelter covered an average distance of 81 km, and they increasingly looked for private rental housing, public housing, hotels and inns, the survey found.
Their third and fourth moves to find shelter within the month were on average 102 km and 112 km, respectively.
Over the year following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the evacuees changed shelters 4.9 times on average, according to the survey.
It is the first extensive survey to provide such details about the voluntarily evacuation of Fukushima residents after the nuclear disaster. The results are expected to help local municipalities located around nuclear plants map out their evacuation plans.
According to the survey, 76 percent of evacuees said they or their family members drove their cars to flee the disaster, while 10 percent said they were driven in the vehicles of acquaintances. They spent an average of 51,253 yen ($506) for gas charges, train fare and bus tickets.
As many as 42 percent of the respondents said their family members became separated during the evacuation.
The survey was conducted by a team led by Naoya Sekiya, a special-appointed associate professor of disaster information studies at the University of Tokyo, and Yu Hiroi, an associate professor of urban disaster prevention at Nagoya University.
The education ministry commissioned the survey.
The team sent questionnaires to 41,754 people who left the no-entry zones and other areas affected by the nuclear disaster in March 2012 and received valid response from 10,082.
Hiroi said the evacuees first moved to relatives’ homes but then chose to use rented housing or hotels to avoid becoming a burden on their relatives over a protracted period.
In interviews with some of the evacuees, a woman in her 20s told the team that immediately after the accident, she voluntarily fled from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to Hokkaido with her 2-year-old child, leaving behind her husband. She later moved to Niigata Prefecture.