Former residents return to last town left deserted following Fukushima disaster

21 January 2022, 15:24

The town of Futaba in Japan
Japan Fukushima. Picture: PA

Only 15 of 7,000 residents living in Futaba before the tragedy expressed their desire to return this week on a trial basis.

Several former residents of Futaba, the only remaining uninhabited town in Japan still recovering from the effects of radiation from nuclear plant meltdowns in 2011, have returned to live there for the first time since the massive earthquake and tsunami forced them out.

Authorities have declared most other areas safe and reopened them following extensive decontamination efforts over the past decade.

In Futaba, only 15 of 7,000 residents living there before the tragedy expressed their desire to return this week on a trial basis. A fully-fledged reopening of the town on Japan’s north-eastern coast is set for June.

“It’s the first time in 10 years and 10 months that I’ve seen running water come out,” a beaming Yuji Onuma told NHK television.

He said he looks forward to cooking fried noodles and eating with his wife and children when they start their lives back in town together later this month.

He was there alone briefly on Friday with several others who in recent years have been gradually cleaning their homes during allowed daytime visits.

Another returnee, Yoichi Yatsuta, said he hoped town officials will pursue reconstruction to encourage younger people to come back.

Their town was the hardest hit when the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went into meltdowns following the 9.0 magnitude quake that sent tsunami waves washing over the coast, killing 18,000 people, including more than 50 in Futaba.

Most of the remaining population were forced to evacuate to another town in the Fukushima prefecture due to the radiation and contamination of the area, which has been largely deserted since.

Yoichi Yatsuda with his dogs in Futaba
Yoichi Yatsuta with his dogs in Futaba (Kota Endo/Kyodo News via AP)

While relocating, many of the former residents have found new jobs and community ties and say they have no interest in coming back.

A small section near the Futaba train station, which was cleaned and rebuilt, was opened for daytime visits in March last year, just before the Olympic torch relay ahead of the Tokyo Summer Games.

Futaba mayor Shiro Izawa said the return on a trial basis “is a first step towards Futaba town’s reconstruction”. He added: “I’m sure many town residents have long been waiting for this day.”

There are no medical services or enough shops. For now, the residents must go out of town to find a hospital or shop for food and other daily necessities.

Prospects for a larger return are grim.

Futaba’s registered residents already have decreased by nearly 2,000 from its pre-disaster population. Even after radiation levels declined to safe levels, the region’s farming and fishing continue to be hurt by lingering concerns among consumers and retailers.

The nuclear plant is being decommissioned in a process that will take decades. The government is also building temporary storage for massive amounts of debris and soil from ongoing decontamination efforts.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian defence ministry, Ukrainian servicemen line up to be checked as they leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Russia’s claim of Mariupol’s capture fuels concern for prisoners of war

Kourtney Kardashian, left, and Travis Barker

The Kardashians take to Portofino for Kourtney-Travis wedding

Miranda Atnip sits in her car in a car park

Tennessee homeless seek refuge as public camping becomes a felony crime

Enrique Owens, a cousin of Roberta Drury, wears a T-shirt with her photograph on it before her funeral service on Saturday May 21 2022 (Lauren Petracca/AP)

Youngest of 10 Buffalo shooting victims is laid to rest

Rescue workers run for cover as earth movers dig through rubble of a collapsed tunnel in Ramban district, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Friday May 20 2022

Nine more bodies found in Kashmir tunnel collapse – taking toll to 10

Anthony Albanese

Scott Morrison’s conservative government toppled in Australia

Tornado Michigan

Second death reported after rare tornado strikes Michigan

Anthony Albanese

Australian election: Albanese set to take power as Morrison concedes defeat

Gazprom headquarters

Russia hits back at Finland by halting all gas exports

Citizens cast their votes at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia

PM Scott Morrison concedes defeat in Australian election

Anthony Albanese will be Australia’s new prime minister after Scott Morrison, inset, conceded defeat

Australia 'votes for change' as republican Anthony Albanese leads Labor to election win

President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One

Biden signs £32bn Ukraine assistance Bill during Asia trip

Ukrainian ambassador to Poland Andrii Deshchytsia speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Warsaw, Poland

Poles need EU funds as they help Ukrainians, ambassador says

Two trucks overturned after a storm in Paderborn, Germany

German storm generated three tornadoes, says weather service

US President Joe Biden listens to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speak during a news conference at the People’s House inside the Ministry of National Defence in Seoul

US and South Korea to consider expanded military drills amid North Korea concern

Jim Finn holds his eight-month-old daughter Allegra as he casts his vote at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia

Australians vote to determine conservative government future