Fukushima nuclear wasteland revealed as residents slowly dare to return to devastated ghost towns

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EIGHT years after fleeing their homes after a tsunami caused a Fukushima nuclear power plant to go into meltdown, just a tiny trickle have braved returning to the evacuation zone. 

Local officials paint a rosy picture , but few of the 100,000 evacuees have reclaimed their homes, offices, schools and streets from wildly towering weeds and roaming wild boars.

Clean-up work continues as the evacuation order is lifted at Ogawara and Chuyashiki district on April 10 this year
Clean-up work continues as the evacuation order is lifted at Ogawara and Chuyashiki district on April 10 this year
Getty – Contributor
This photo taken on April 9 shows central area of Okuma town,
This photo taken on April 9 shows deserted central area of Okuma town
AP:Associated Press
Evacuees of Okuma town, who are dressed in protective suits, offer prayers for victim
Evacuees of Okuma town, who are dressed in protective suits, offer prayers for victim
Reuters

Three reactors went into meltdown after the 2011 Japanese tsunami sparked the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. 

Radiation leaks left an apocalyptic vision of ghost towns and overgrown wildernesses and scared residents refusing to go home.

Nevertheless the Japanese government is keen for evacuees to return as soon as it claims is safe to do so.

In fact it is so desperate to recover quickly from the catastrophe, it has ploughed at least £21billion into the epic clean up.

A huge army of more than 70,000 workers have scooped away topsoil, removed tree branches and dug up grass in areas near homes, schools and public buildings in a bid to decontaminate. 

Millions upon millions of cubic metres of radioactive soil has been poured into bags which are then removed and safely stored elsewhere.

All the while a Saga arcade slowly fades with decay and dust taking hold while vegetation begins creeping into homes and shops.

Some places on the other hand look eerily unaffected as if frozen in time.

There are streets and offices that are perfectly preserved as if one day people suddenly vanished.

It has taken many years to get to where we are now, but I am happy that we made it


Mayor of Okuma, in Fukushima perfecture

Progress is being made in the clean-up, however.  

This month radiation levels in parts of the town Okuma, west of the crippled nuclear plant, have been deemed safe for its residents to return home.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited to mark the milestone.

Yet according to local reports just 367 residents of Okuma’s original population of 10,341 have so far said they are going to return home.

And parts of the town remains off-limits until about 2022.

Despite all this the mayor of Okuma was upbeat when speaking to Japanese reporters.

He said: “It has taken many years to get to where we are now, but I am happy that we made it.”

CAMPAIGN TO CONVINCE EVACUEES TO GO HOME

This comes amid a big campaign to convince people to go home.

Many residents have voted with their feet.

And campaigners and nuclear experts believe it not safe.

They accuse the Japanese authorities of wanting to allay public fears over the nuclear power by downplaying the dire consequences of the leak.

Some critics have also accused the Japanese government of talking up residents’ return as part of a public relations exercise ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


But despite the bad publicity a nuclear disaster on this scale has brought, officials say new figures show the largest year-on-year growth in foreign visitors among all the island country’s prefectures.

The Japanese Times is now reporting, tourism was up roughly 2.4 times from the same month the previous year.

This comes after the number foreign lodgers in Fukushima reached 120,250 last year which breached 100,000 line since the nuclear crisis.

A Fukushima prefecture spokesman said: “We hope to utilise every possible means to promote the prefecture’s attractiveness as a tourist destination to bring in more visitors.”

New roads being laid in Okuma
New roads being laid in Okuma
Getty – Contributor
While the evacuation order was lifted on April 10, most of the residents have not confirmed they are returning
While the evacuation order was lifted on April 10, most of the residents have not confirmed they are returning
Getty – Contributor
Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation zone back in 2011
A scene during the 2011 crisis… Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation zone
Reuters
A hall that was used as an evacuation area during the disaster is eerily empty in the picture taken last year by an urban explorer
Streets have been left deserted as over 100,000 people fled the area in a panic
An abandoned car sales lot
An abandoned car sales lot
The radiation that’s still present in the area after the disaster means residents are scared to return
The government is urging residents of Fukushima to return to their homes, despite the potential dangers of radiation in the area

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Caters News Agency

The arcade was abandoned in 2011 following the nuclear disaster[/caption]

Caters News Agency

Urban explorer Bob Thissen uncovered the lost games hall in the ghost town’s forbidden red zone[/caption]

Caters News Agency

A wheel of a driving game is covered in radioactive dust[/caption]

Caters News Agency

The Dutchman had to hike and avoid police to reach the games hall[/caption]


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