evacuation zone

This tag is associated with 37 posts

Preparatory home stays set to begin Aug. 21 in evacuated town of Tomioka, fukushima minpo, 7/23/2016

The central government has unveiled a plan to begin temporary home stays on Aug. 21 at the homes of evacuated residents in Tomioka town, south of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. in Fukushima Prefecture. The plan, disclosed at a meeting of all town assembly members on July 22, will be limited to a zone preparing to lift an evacuation order and a residency-restricted zone. The government is seeking to remove both zones as early as next April.

The proposed temporary home stay scheme will replace the special lodging system that began on July 23 in line with the start of a summer vacation at schools. The government also told the meeting, held at a temporary town branch office in Koriyama city, it will specify by the turn of the year when the evacuation zones will be lifted, except for a “difficult-to-return” zone.

In the two zones, decontamination work has been almost completed in residential areas. Two convenience stores have opened, and a municipal clinic is scheduled to begin medical services in October. The town’s expert committee discussing the permanent return of residents announced on July 21 that “minimum municipal functions necessary for daily living are expected to be restored by the end of fiscal 2016.” Given the situation, the government has concluded that it is possible to implement preparatory home stays.

At the meeting, government officials said plans are on the table to set up temporary accommodation for evacuees returning under the preparatory lodging scheme and introduce mobile shops. Some assembly members called for the full resumption of the Futaba Police Station’s main office in Tomioka, currently reopened partially, to help dispel anxiety over public safety among townspeople, while others requested the display of a town radiation dosage map, including “hot spots” where radiation levels are high.

original link: http://fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=702

House demolition in 11 evacuated municipalities to be completed by March 2018, fukushima minpo, 7/22/2016

The Environment Ministry is set to have completed by the end of fiscal 2017 through March 2018 the demolition of dilapidated residences in 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where residents have been evacuated since the 2011 nuclear accident, according to ministry officials. It was the first time that the ministry has specified the date for completing work to dismantle evacuated houses in accordance with requests from residents.

The national government has made clear its policy to lift evacuation orders in all the affected municipalities by next March except for areas where permanent returns are deemed difficult due to still high levels of radiation from nuclear fallout stemming from the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Against that background, the ministry sees the need to accelerate the demolition work, step up the restoration of a living environment and pave the way for the homecoming of evacuees.

Covered by the ministry project are the cities of Tamura and Minamisoma, the towns of Kawamata, Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie, and the villages of Kawauchi, Katsurao and Iitate. Evacuees had applied for the demolition of about 8,800 houses as of June this year. Of the total, residences in Tamura and Kawauchi have been dismantled, leaving some 5,600 others yet to be demolished, according to the ministry.

Demolition work is to be finished by the end of fiscal 2016 on a total of 2,230 houses in Minamisoma, Naraha and Katsurao, where the removal of evacuation zones has made progress, and on 400 homes in Futaba, Okuma and Kawamata, where the number of demolition applications is relatively small. The ministry is set to accomplish demolition of 2,970 residences by fiscal 2017 in Namie, Tomioka and Iitate, where applications are in excess of 1,000 each.

Five years on, Fukushima evacuees voice lingering anger, fear and distrust, japan times, 3/9/16

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Five years after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated northern Japan in March 2011, some 100,000 evacuees have still not returned to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture, parts of which were heavily contaminated by radiation in the wake of the reactor meltdowns.

Of these evacuees, just over half are living inside the prefecture, while 43,000 are scattered across the rest of the archipelago. Of the roughly 57,000 displaced within Fukushima, 18,322 are still living in temporary housing units.

The government has begun lifting the compulsory evacuation orders for some communities in the former no-go zone surrounding Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and plans to remove any remaining restrictions in March of next year.

However, many Fukushima evacuees are reluctant to return. They fear that radiation in some areas is still high despite the huge decontamination effort that has been underway for the past five years. They also worry that compensation for their ordeal since March 2011 from the government and Tepco will be cut or disappear altogether if they decide to restart life in their former hometowns. Those who chose to vacate their homes outside the designated exclusion zone are also deeply concerned about the prospect of losing the right to stay in temporary accommodation a year from now and being left with no choice but to return.

At a recent event in Tokyo titled “Voices of the Evacuees of Fukushima,” and at a press conference last week organized by the Liaison Committee for Organizations of Victims of the Nuclear Disaster, a handful of representatives of these thousands of uprooted Fukushima residents spoke out about the ordeal that began five years ago with the earthquake, tsunami and multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, and which continues to exact a toll to this day. Here are some of those voices:

Mr. Segaya, who would only be identified by his surname due to privacy concerns, has been living in Saitama Prefecture with his family since opting to evacuate from his home in Koriyama, 60 km west of Fukushima No. 1.

“Many evacuees have fears about whether the decontamination efforts by the government are accurate or not and how they are carried out,” Segaya said. “In Koriyama and Fukushima, sometimes they cut down trees and sometimes they don’t. In one city, where they cut down trees, they burn them non-stop. In the other, the trees can’t be burned in incinerators. We are not sure which is better. To be honest, some say that the radiation doesn’t drop if trees are cut down. So you hear stories of people with different accounts — some have cut their trees chopped in half and saw a lowering of radiation, others didn’t see any drop.”

Segaya is most concerned about the safety of his children if he moves back to Koriyama.

“When our kids come back from playing in the dirt in Saitama, my wife yells at them saying, ‘What are you doing?’ I just smile at them because they are boys and just pat them lightly on the head to scold them, but if this were to happen in Fukushima, soft scolding wouldn’t be enough,” he said. “In Fukushima we don’t know which areas are decontaminated and which aren’t. At our home in Koriyama the geiger counter sadly still rings.”

Segaya explained that in Koriyama it rains a lot, which is another source of fear for evacuees who return.

The water, he said, can reach “up to around my knees, and the dirt rises and spreads when it dries up. When I call the Koriyama council to tell them about the situation, all I get is ‘At this point, we cannot tell you what to do about this issue.’ So even if I’m told it’s safe to go back, I don’t feel like I want to return.”

Segaya said that following the disaster, his two eldest sons were covered in cysts “like frogs,” and he feared the growths might be cancerous.

“The Fukushima Medical University doctors say that cysts are common, and that they show up and disappear, but I can’t trust them. Similarly, he said, “Even if they say it’s decontaminated, I can’t bring myself to (have my family) return to somewhere where the radiation is still so high.”

Speaking about job prospects and the difficulties in getting back on his feet, Segaya said the Japanese job-hunting system — shūkatsu in Japanese — can be a drawn-out process involving months of sitting written tests and attending group workshops and interviews.

“At my age, to go through applying for another job, sadly, I don’t have the courage,” Segaya explained. “And now our savings are depleting. When the housing compensation stops, what do we do?

“Do I sell our house, which is surrounded with bags full of contaminated soil? I know it will sell. People living in the Hamadori region (on the coast) would buy the house because the radiation level there is much higher than here. But is it right to sell a house like that? Something in me questions the ethics of that.”

Kayo Watanabe left her home in Fukushima city, 60 km northwest of the No. 1 plant, at the height of uncertainty about the true extent of the 2011 nuclear disaster. She now lives with her children in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, 45 km farther inland from the stricken nuclear plant on the coast. As is the case with many other evacuee families, her husband didn’t follow them. He is still working in Fukushima, the city where his extended family also lives.

“We are in the fifth floor of a welfare housing building with no elevator, so I have to climb the stairs every day,” Watanabe said. “It’s an old building dating back to 1985. At the time (of the disasters) there was no heating and we had to take cold showers. Daily life is very inconvenient.”

There are still many mother-and-children clusters of evacuees, Watanabe explained, but some have gone back, preferring for their families to be together.

However, she said, “I’m still concerned about going back while the decontamination is not finished.”

Watanabe said that her husband visits after work, but the journeys back and forth on top of his work commute leave him exhausted.

“My children are getting used to the situation of not having a father around, which is not good,” she said. “There are a lot of divorces, too. When families are apart, this happens.”

During the unfolding nuclear disaster, Mr. Suzuki, his wife and four children made the decision to leave their home in Nihonmatsu, 45 km northwest of the stricken No. 1 nuclear plant.

“Why did I and my family evacuate? Simple: It’s because I feared radiation. I still remember the 1986 Chernobyl accident and knew how terrible radiation is,” said Suzuki, who didn’t give his first name. “Our house in Fukushima was an old one. It was my wife’s father’s old wooden house, with thin walls and space where outside air comes through.”

“We were at this house on March 27, 2011, and when I measured the radiation, it was about 9 microsieverts outside, and inside 3 to 4 microsieverts. When I measured it after the decontamination, it was about 0.2 microsieverts, and now it’s between 0.1 and 0.2 microsieverts, and it’s basically the same inside the house and outside. So, when dust and wind comes in, or when the cat we have comes in, radiation enters the house. But I can’t just kill the cat.”

The government’s decontamination efforts have involved the removal of topsoil and other contaminated material in areas registering high radioactivity in a bid to bring levels down to an acceptable level. These materials are then sealed in black plastic bags and stored in their thousands at temporary sites across the prefecture. Material registering higher than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram is classed as radioactive waste.

“In 2012, when we measured the soil, it was 80,000 becquerels (per kg),” Suzuki said. “They will decontaminate the houses, but not the mountains. So we have to continue to stay away.”

Suzuki said that traveling between Yonezawa, where his family are living, Nihonmatsu and Fukushima city, he spends ¥50,000 on gasoline a month. This puts a strain on his finances because he only makes ¥150,000 a month.

“I want to say that the compensation should continue,” Suzuki said. “They (the government and Tepco) don’t even take any responsibility, and I want to tell them to go to hell. The responsibility lies with the government and Tepco, so they should provide us with a range of options. Instead, it’s only one option: ‘Go back because it’s safe,’ and also saying that we, those still staying away, are overreacting. But safety — our safety — is not what the government or Tepco should decide, right? The fact is, the radiation level at my house in Fukushima is still too high.”

Mr. Arai is a “voluntary” evacuee from Iwaki, a city 50 km south of Fukushima No. 1. He is now living with his family in a public housing unit in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, alongside 84 families from Tohoku, the majority from Fukushima.

“People think we live off high compensation money, but the fact is that it is very low. And this will end at the end of March next year,” said Arai. “It’s been years since the disaster and there are various concerns people harbor. But, I beg you, please let us live somewhere until we all feel assured, and then can say thank you.”

“It is not just economic issues,” Arai continued. “There are many evacuees who are elderly with illnesses, for whom moving around is not easy. I had to evacuate with my four children and 90-something-year-old parents when I first came to Tokyo, and moved around several times until I found this housing.

“It was very difficult and we stumbled upon many hardships along the way,” Arai explained. “Our children are having to struggle through with scholarships and side jobs. We can’t even live up to our responsibilities as parents to provide for our children.”

Kenichi Hasegawa, a dairy farmer from Iitate, a village 40 km northwest of Fukushima No. 1, was forced to evacuate on April 22, 2011. Although he has been living in a temporary housing facility in Date city, 20 km farther north, ever since, Hasegawa is completely against the lifting of the remaining evacuation orders for areas surrounding the nuclear plant.

“Those of us directly affected by the Fukushima accident are very much concerned and very much against this move,” he said. “However, the government is trying to push forward with the (Tokyo 2020) Olympics as a way to cover up the situation and send out the message that Japan is now safe.”

Hasegawa says decontamination work in Iitate has been going on for three years but is still only 50 percent complete. The government has declared that decontamination of the village will be complete by the end of the year.

“I believe that this is completely impossible,” said Hasegawa. “We are all being forced to face the decision of whether to abandon our village or to return despite the fact that radiation levels in the village are still very high.

“I believe that one of our greatest concerns as regards contamination and radiation levels in our village is the soil. As for my own home, there is a forest area just behind it, and the official word is that the decontamination there has already been finished. So, I did my own sampling of the soil in this area that has been declared decontaminated, and the result of this sampling was actually 2,600 becquerels per kg of the soil behind my house. This is three times the national standard.”

Hasegawa explained that the analysis of topsoil he collected was performed by Nihon University professor Koji Itonaga, who also measured radiation levels in his cedar trees.

Iitate was only evacuated a month after the nuclear meltdowns, although it was exposed to higher levels of radiation than most areas within the original evacuation zone at the height of the disaster.

“At first the designation was made with just this straight circle around the plant, and we were designated as being outside of the 30 km area,” explained Hasegawa. “We were completely left behind and not included at all within the evacuation. However, because the contamination levels in Iitate were so high that they could no longer be hidden, a month later Iitate was included in the compulsory evacuation area.

“We know now, for example, that the data from SPEEDI about where the flume was going and so on was very clear — that the radiation was going northwest of the plant at the time — yet this data was hidden,” said Hasegawa.

SPEEDI is a supercomputer that provides real-time assessment of radiation levels in nuclear emergencies.

Hasegawa says he is receiving monthly compensation of ¥100,000 from Tepco for mental stress caused by the disaster. However, compensation for individuals who lost their businesses following the disaster is calculated according to the amount of sales of that business.

“If the business did not actually have profits at the time — if it was even in the red, for example, prior to the disaster — then there is no compensation being given for this. So the compensation we are receiving corresponds to the profits that were declared by that business,” said Hasegawa.


Kazuhiko Amano worked as the head of the evacuation center set up at the Big Palette convention site from April 2011 until the following year.

“The nuclear accident is not over,” he said. “It is clear the evacuees need on-going support. They lost their jobs and daily lives through no fault of their own, so I believe the government needs to provide them with security.

“The evacuees are mentally weakened from thinking all day about whether they will or will not return to their hometowns. As their lives as evacuees lengthen, we are seeing many secondary deaths,” he said, referring to those recognized as being linked to the triple disaster rather than directly caused by the initial quake and tsunami. “These are especially high among those from Fukushima compared to evacuees from Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.”

Out of the overall total number of deaths, said Amano, “For Miyagi and Iwate, the percentage of secondary deaths is 8 percent. For Fukushima, it is 55 percent. This is an unusually high number. So, this also suggests that the biggest challenge for Fukushima is the ‘recovery of the soul.’ “

FIVE YEARS AFTER: ‘Don’t abandon us,’ victims of Fukushima nuclear accident say, asahi, 3/3/2016

Miyako Kumamoto longs for the days of sharing fresh home-grown produce with her friends in the clean mountain air of Fukushima Prefecture.

But now, the 73-year-old fears she will be forced to live alone on the streets of Tokyo under government policies concerning evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“It is wrong for the central government to say ‘return home’ and to lift evacuation orders even though its own declaration of an emergency situation for the nuclear accident remains in place,” Kumamoto told a protest rally of about 780 people at Tokyo’s Hibiya Park on March 2.

Saying the government is ignoring their opinions and safety concerns about radiation levels, the protesters slammed Tokyo’s push for evacuees to return to their homes near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. They later marched near government offices and in front of the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the nuclear plant.

The rally was hosted by a national organization called Hidanren, which comprises plaintiffs in lawsuits against the central government and TEPCO, and joined by Fukushima residents who are still living in evacuation nearly five years after the nuclear disaster started in March 2011.

Before the rally, Hidanren gave a government official a letter addressed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The letter demanded a retraction of policies that “abandon the nuclear victims.”

The central government plans to lift evacuation orders around the Fukushima nuclear plant by the end of March 2017, except for “difficult-to-return” zones where annual radiation doses still exceed 50 millisieverts.

Fukushima residents who were not living in evacuation zones but still fled after the nuclear disaster unfolded have been provided free housing by the Fukushima prefectural government. The prefecture has decided to terminate that program for the “voluntary” evacuees in April 2017.

Kenichi Hasegawa, a 62-year-old co-representative of Hidanren, told the demonstrators that government officials showed no intention of changing the policies.

“I felt outrage,” Hasegawa said. “Let’s raise our voices and stand up against them together.”

According to the Fukushima prefectural government, around 165,000 people evacuated their homes due to the nuclear disaster as of May 2012. As of January 2016, 100,000 remained living in evacuation, including around 5,700 in Tokyo.

Kumamoto, whose husband died in 2007, has been living in public housing in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward since April 2011.

She had moved from Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, to Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2003. For years in Tamura, she and her husband grew fruits and vegetables in a field. She said cooking and eating the food with her friends was more important than anything else.

The area where she lived in Tamura, between 20 and 30 kilometers from the nuclear plant, was designated an emergency evacuation preparation zone after the meltdowns. The designation was lifted in September 2011, and city workers have since decontaminated the area.

But Kumamoto said the radiation has not been lowered to a level that reassures her that she can safely return home.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has asked Kumamoto to reapply for public housing if she wants to continue living there after April 2017.

“If I am not picked in the lottery, I would have to wander around in the streets,” Kumamoto said.

Yukiko Kameya, 71, has lived with her husband in Tokyo’s Minato Ward since fleeing from Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, after the disaster.

Most areas in Futaba are still designated as “difficult-to-return zones,” with annual radiation doses exceeding 50 millisieverts.

Futaba is also a candidate site for interim storage of soil and debris contaminated with radioactive substances from the nuclear accident.

“Since we cannot return there, I want a place to live to be guaranteed,” Kameya said. “I want the land to be returned to the state before the accident.”

After the rally at Hibiya Park, Kameya led a march in front of a ministry office building and TEPCO’s headquarters.

She shouted, “Return my hometown.”

Aki Hashimoto, 60, who traveled from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to attend the rally, said a friend in Tokyo once asked, “Are you still making a fuss over the issue?”

Hashimoto said the frustration and disappointment over that comment have not eased.

“I do not want the nuclear accident to be forgotten,” Hashimoto said.

(This article was written by Miki Aoki, Mana Nagano, and Jun Sato.)

For some Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at heavy price, asahi, 2/23/2015

Three-and-a-half years after fleeing to central Japan, a mother received a package from her husband who had opted to remain at their home in Fukushima Prefecture despite the nuclear disaster.

From Tamura, about 35 kilometers west of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the father sent snacks for the couple’s two children. The cardboard box also contained divorce papers.

“I cannot send money to my family whom I cannot see,” the husband told his wife.

She still refused to return home.

Thanks to decontamination work, radiation levels have fallen around the nuclear plant since the triple meltdown caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. And families are returning to their hometowns, trying to resume normal lives.

But many mothers, distrustful of the government’s safety assurances, still harbor fears that radiation will affect the health of their children. As a result of these concerns, families are being torn apart, friendships have ended, and a social divide remains wide in Fukushima communities.

Around 70,000 people are still not allowed to return to their homes located in evacuation zones designated by the central government. And an estimated 18,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture whose homes were outside those zones remain living in evacuation.

The government is pushing for Fukushima residents to return home and trying to counter false rumors about the nuclear disaster.

More families in Fukushima Prefecture are willing to buy food produced in the prefecture–but not all.

A 40-year-old mother who once lived on the coast of Fukushima Prefecture and moved farther inland to Koriyama said she still fears for the health of her 11-year-old daughter.

Her classmates started serving “kyushoku” school lunches containing Fukushima rice and vegetables that passed the screening for radioactive materials. But the fifth-grader has instead eaten from a bento lunch box prepared by her mother.

The daughter says that eating her own lunch led to teasing from her classmates. She heard one of them say behind her back: “You aren’t eating kyushoku. Are you neurotic?”

She does not talk to that classmate anymore, although they used to be friends.

“I now feel a bit more at ease even when I am different from other students,” the daughter said.

Her mother expressed concerns about her daughter’s social life, but protecting her child’s health takes precedence.

“My daughter may fall ill sometime,” the mother said. “I feel almost overwhelmed by such a fear.”

An official of the Fukushima prefectural board of education said a certain number of students act differently from other students because of health concerns over radiation.

“Although the number is limited, some students bring bento to their schools,” the official said. “Some students wear surgical masks when they participate in footraces during outdoor school athletic meets.

“The feelings toward radiation vary from person to person, so we cannot force them (to behave in the same way as other students).”

Sung Woncheol, a professor of sociology at Chukyo University, and others have conducted surveys on mothers whose children were 1 to 2 years old when the nuclear disaster started. The mothers live in Fukushima city and eight other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.

Of the 1,200 mothers who responded to the survey in 2015, 50 percent said they had concerns about child-rearing in Fukushima Prefecture.

Nearly 30 percent said they avoid or try to avoid using food products from Fukushima Prefecture, compared with more than 80 percent six months after the disaster.

But for some mothers, the passage of nearly five years since the disaster unfolded has not erased their fears of radiation.

The 36-year-old mother who received the divorce papers from her husband in autumn 2014 continues to live with her children in the central Japan city to which she had no previous connection.

A month after the nuclear disaster, she fled with her then 1-year-old son and her daughter, 10, from their home, even though it was not located in an evacuation zone.

She said she left Fukushima Prefecture because she “could not trust the data released by the central government.”

The mother still has not told her children that their parents are divorced.

“I believe I could protect the health of my children,” the woman said. “But my family has collapsed.”

By NATSUKI EDOGAWA/ Staff Writer

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