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

Brief visit to Minami-Soma

April 17, 2012

Minami-Soma evacuees visit homes briefly



MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima--Evacuees from areas in Minami-Soma affected by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant made temporary visits to their homes Monday as the no-entry and expanded evacuation zones were lifted in the city at midnight Sunday.

From early Monday morning, residents were seen returning to homes left abandoned since the March 11 quake and tsunami. They immediately started cleaning out debris and mud to prepare for a return to their old lives.

Debris was found scattered in such places as the coastal Odaka district, and many houses were abandoned as they had collapsed or been buried in mud.

The no-entry and expanded evacuation zones, which were established last year, have been reclassified into three new categories according to annual radiation doses.

These are "zones being prepared for residents' return" and "zones with restricted residency," where residents can freely return briefly to their homes, and "zones where residency is prohibited for an extended period," where residents can only make brief visits with permission from authorities.

There are about 3,900 households in these zones. Since the areas become deserted after dark, anticrime measures are necessary.

Immediately before the lifting of the previous zoning requirements, a patrol party formed by about 80 prefectural police officers and residents held a departure ceremony and patrolled the areas.

Since water supply and sewage systems still need to be restored and decontamination work is required in the areas, it is likely to take a while before residents can return to their homes for good.

Homecoming for Minami-Soma residents



MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima--As the no-entry restriction was lifted on midnight Sunday, allowing people to return temporarily to their hometown of Minami-Soma on Monday morning, some residents were disappointed to see their wrecked houses, while some others had their hopes of reconstructing the area renewed.

Last year's crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant resulted in part of the city being designated as a no-entry zone. This zone has now been reorganized into new areas as part of the government's review on evacuation zones.

At about 10 a.m., Asako Yamaguchi, 59, returned to her coastal home in the city's Haramachi district with her husband, Koki, 63, and second son, Kiyoshi, 30.

"I know I can no longer live here. But it's only natural for all of us to want to come back to our own house," Asako said.

Her two-story wooden home was hit by the March 11 tsunami, and all that remains of the first floor is the frame of the house.

The house was built 17 years ago by Asako's 63-year-old brother, carpenter Mitsuo Uemura, who was killed by the tsunami.

After the disaster, Asako felt a strong desire to keep the house that was built by her brother. But it was in the no-entry zone and exposed to the elements without repair for more than a year. The wrecked building somehow still stands, despite it resting on only one pillar.

Asako has almost given up on resuming her old life at the house because of fears about another tsunami hitting the area and radiation concerns.

The no-entry zone has been reorganized so that Asako and her neighbors can freely visit the part of the district that holds their homes. But the state of her house made Asako cry.

On the same day, Seizo Hasegawa, 69, who once ran a poultry farm, entered his Odaka district house after 10 a.m. with his wife. While the district has been rezoned, his home remains in an area where residency is restricted.

The dosimeter in his hand sounded an alarm and detected 3.54 microsieverts of radiation per hour.

Tiles had fallen from the house's roof, part of a storage wall had crumbled and cow manure was lying around the home.

Before the quake, Hasegawa owned about 50,000 broiler chickens and processed the meat with his 30 employees.

His new factory was built just two years ago. But most of his clients, such as a wedding hall and a bento shop, were on the prefecture's coast. As these businesses were badly affected by the disaster, Hasegawa was left with no option but to cull the chickens.

Furthermore, radiation fears stemming from the crisis at the crippled nuclear power plant may damage his ability to sell chicken. Hasegawa therefore believes that it is too difficult to resume his business for the time being.

The Odaka district, which was designated as a no-entry zone following the disaster, has been left almost untouched.

"Although we were told we can now return to our homes, it's hard to do so without infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. I guess no one will return," Hasegawa said with a sigh.

Also in the Odaka district, at about 8 a.m., employees of building contractor Nakazato Komuten returned to its headquarters for the first time in about 13 months.

The company continued to operate after the tsunami by moving its headquarters to various locations in and outside of the city.

"The reconstruction of the Odaka district has just begun. Let's do our best together," the firm's administration manager, Hiroshi Kayama, 58, said in front of about 30 employees.

After confirming the building's safety by using a dosimeter to check radiation levels, employees cleaned the office's muddy rooms.



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