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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Sunflowers sweetening return

September 5, 2014

Sunflowers in full bloom greet nuclear evacuees on temporary return home


OKUMA, Fukushima -- Thousands of sunflowers are in full bloom in this nuclear disaster-hit town, providing encouragement for residents temporarily visiting the area, which is still designated as an evacuation zone.

The sunflowers were planted on farmland in the Ogawara district of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma from seeds donated from across the country for the area's recovery.

Residency in the area remains restricted due to high levels of radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, with all residents still evacuated outside the town nearly 3 1/2 years since the onset of the disaster.

Some 20 volunteers sowed the seeds in June in the hope that residents who saw the sunflowers would feel like coming back to Okuma. Officials at the town's local liaison office have since cared for the plants, weeding the soil. On a slope near the farmland, blue plastic sheets have been used to spell out the message, "Let's return to Okuma."

Residents who were visiting their homes in the area recently stopped at the sunflower field to take pictures of the late-summer scene.

The town of Okuma, along with the neighboring town of Futaba, is a candidate site for the construction of interim storage facilities for radiation-contaminated soil and other waste. Because radiation levels in the Ogawara district are relatively low, the area is planned to be developed as a stronghold for disaster recovery, complete with research facilities for decontamination work and decommissioning of reactors.

"One resident called us about the sunflowers saying, 'They cheered me up,'" said a 62-year-old employee at the local liaison office. "I hope residents will feel at ease by seeing the sunflowers blooming in their hometown, which is falling into decay (as a result of the disaster)."

September 05, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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