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

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora