East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) announced July 28 it will resume regular train runs Dec. 10 on another stretch of the Joban Line damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. To be reopened is a 22.6-kilometer portion between Soma Station in Soma city, Fukushima Prefecture, and Hamayoshida Station in Watari town, Miyagi Prefecture.
It follows the resumption of train services on a 9.4-kilometer stretch of the line between Odaka and Haranomachi stations in Minamisoma city on July 12 when an evacuation order was lifted in most parts of the Fukushima Prefecture city hit by the tsunami-caused nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The Soma-Hamayoshida link will thus connect Minamisoma’s Odaka district to the Miyagi prefectural capital Sendai by rail.
The Soma-Hamayoshida stretch includes an 18.2-kilometer route between Komagamine Station in Shinchi town and Hamayoshida, with tracks for 14.6 kilometers of the route moved inland from an area close to the coastline. The Shinchi Station structure that was washed away by the tsunami is being rebuilt at a location about 300 meters southwest. The route was initially scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2017 but the date for resumption has been moved up following faster-than-expected progress in land purchases.
The last suspended stretch, from Tatsuta Station in Naraha town to Odaka Station, will remain closed for the present due to its location close to the crippled nuclear plant but JR East plans to reopen it gradually by the end of fiscal 2019 on March 31, 2020.
Regular train service resumed on a 9.4-kilometer stretch of East Japan Railway’s Joban Line in Minamisoma city on July 12 after being suspended for five years and four months since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The reopening of the railway line between Haranomachi and Odaka stations was timed with the day’s lifting of an evacuation order in most parts of the city.
A ceremony marking the resumed service was held at Haranomachi Station ahead of the first train’s departure at 7:15 a.m. Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai and other officials delivered speeches at the ceremony, and boarded the train together with passengers who had long waited for trains to start running again.
The inaugural train arrived at Odaka Station around 7:30 a.m. Local residents cheered as a crowd of passengers disembarked. Nine ordinary train runs are operated a day on northbound and southbound lines each.
MINAMISOMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – A municipal hospital reopened in this Fukushima Prefecture city Wednesday, three years after it closed due to the nuclear crisis at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The Odaka hospital in Minamisoma is the first permanent medical institution that has reopened in any of the areas near the crippled power plant where the evacuation advisory has yet to be lifted.
There are currently three types of evacuation areas, depending on the degree of radiation an area received after the triple reactor meltdown in March 2011. Citizens are banned from staying at their homes overnight inside these areas.
The Minamisoma government aims to lift the evacuation advisory for much of the city by April 2016. Minamisoma officials hope that reopening the hospital will help accelerate preparations for the eventual return of local residents.
Tomoyoshi Matsumoto, 66, and his wife came to see a doctor shortly after the hospital opened at 8 a.m.
“We live nearby and I feel comfortable because I know some doctors here,” Matsumoto said.
The couple live in Minamisoma, in a provisional home near Odaka. Before the hospital reopened they had to travel two hours to a different institution.
The Odaka hospital will be open three days a week, with four doctors working on shifts. It accepts outpatients with relatively mild symptoms.
Local residents on temporary visits to their homes and decontamination workers are expected to be among the hospital’s patients.
The main building remains unusable due to damage from the March 11, 2011, earthquake, so the hospital reopened in a one-story building that was previously used as a rehabilitation center.
Some businesses, including factories and service stations, have also reopened in the district.
Elsewhere in the prefecture’s evacuation areas, a provisional clinic has opened in the town of Namie, and a second one is expected to be set up in the town of Naraha soon.