News / Asia

Japanese Nuclear Crisis Leaves Fukushima Town Broken

A bicycle is left near a station in the part of Minamisoma town that is inside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, April 21, 2011.
A bicycle is left near a station in the part of Minamisoma town that is inside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, April 21, 2011.

Multimedia

The Japanese town of Minamisoma was hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami in March. The disaster killed several hundred residents. Tens of thousands were then forced to evacuate as reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which lies just 30 kilometers away, went into meltdown.

And many of the residents who remain feel they have been abandoned by the Japanese government.

Grass and wild rice are encroaching on the road leading into the Fukushima evacuation zone.

It is deserted apart from a single bus; on board are a few of the former residents of this area, now dressed in protective suits.

For three precious hours, they were allowed back to their homes.  After collecting valuables, documents, even abandoned pets, they are once more escorted out.

A Japanese refugee, carrying a bouquet of flowers and wearing a suit to protect against radiation, boards a bus to take him to his home village of Namie to collect some of his belongings inside the nuclear contaminated exclusion zone, in Minamisoma

A Japanese refugee, carrying a bouquet of flowers and wearing a suit to protect against radiation, boards a bus to take him to his home village of Namie to collect some of his belongings inside the nuclear contaminated exclusion zone, in Minamisoma, Japan, May 21, 2011. (AP).

Everyone living within 20 km of the Daiichi plant was forced to evacuate. For the next 10 kilometers, the government has simply recommended that people move away. The town of Minamisoma lies on the edge of that zone.

Determined to stay

Overgrown gardens and abandoned homes are testament to the exodus that followed the first explosion at the Fukushima plant. Almost overnight the population plummeted from 71,000 to just 10,000.

Nunokawa Yoshiuki is one of those who decided to stay. He’s still running his family’s fruit store, just 25 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

“There are six people in my family. If I run away, there would be no job for me," he explains. “I was born here, I grew up here; I work hard to treat my customers well. My roots are here and that’s connected to all my customers," adds Nunokawa. “I don’t want the Fukushima nuclear problem to beat us, I want to get over this, I talked to my family about it and I decided to stay here.”

Even though he’s decided to stay, Nunokawa fears for his business.

“The number of customers has really fallen,” he says. “I used to deliver to wholesale customers, but they are within the 20 kilometer evacuation zone, and have all closed down. So I’ve lost a lot of profit.”

Aftermath

A kilometer down the road. VOA found an abandoned farm.  Behind the padlocked gates, rows of greenhouses full of dead plants.  The cattle sheds overgrown and empty.  The last entry on the delivery board at the farm entrance shows the date as March 13, two days after the tsunami hit.

At the town hall, officials are dealing with a stream of people asking for help and advice.

The mayor of Minamisoma, Sakurai Katsunobu, gained worldwide fame in March when he posted a video on the website YouTube, appealing for help.



He was scathing of the Japanese government’s response, saying his town was left "isolated."

Lingering fear

Five months on, authorities are struggling to bring the Fukushima nuclear plant under control. There is still much fear among the people of Minamisoma.

Takano Shinji is among the staff at the Tsunami Response Center.

“We get many phone calls from citizens looking for information," Takano says. "I can’t give them the answer, I have to ask the government, but always they say they haven’t made a decision yet. Always, the Japanese government’s answer is ‘No we can’t’.”

Hour by hour, town hall officials plot the latest radiation readings on maps and mark the progress made on the clean-up operation. Takano says for many years they lived in relative ignorance of the power plant.

“Before, we never thought about the nuclear plant just up the road,” he says. “The Japanese government always insisted that the plants were safe. But now with this situation that has befallen our town, we realize how dangerous nuclear plants really are.”

Latest readings suggest the current radiation level in Minamisoma does not pose a long-term health risk.  But tens of thousands residents have abandoned this town. Many are unlikely to return.

Minamisoma has been changed forever thanks to its nuclear neighbor.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid