A handful of residents return to the last deserted town in Fukushima

Five former residents of the last unpopulated town near Japan’s troubled Fukushima nuclear plant returned to live on the site Thursday for the first time since the 2011 disaster.

Television footage showed the returnees inspecting buildings in Futaba and one of them tested the operation of the water pipe in front of his house.

“It’s coming out! It’s the first time in 10 years and 11 months that water is coming out,” he exclaimed.

Following an extensive decontamination campaign, several areas around the plant in northeastern Japan were declared safe after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear spill.

Futaba, whose population of about 5,600 inhabitants had to flee for fear of radiation, was the only municipality still deserted in the Fukushima region.

The restrictions were lifted in a small part of the town in March 2020, and the government will open other areas in the coming months.

A local official told AFP that five people from four houses returned to live in Futaba on a trial basis, out of a group of 15 people who applied to the plan to repopulate the town permanently.

The group had previously gone to Futuba but Thursday was the first time they did so with the intention of spending the night.

They will be able to live in their homes on a trial basis at least until June, when other areas are opened and their residence becomes permanent, the official explained.

The plan “seeks to ensure that residents can live without problems, for example, by checking that the sewers work well and that there are facilities to support daily life,” an official in support of Fukushima residents told AFP.

More than 18,400 people were killed or missing after the magnitude 9 earthquake, followed by a tsunami on March 11, 2011, which caused the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Some evacuated residents have not wanted to return despite the decontamination, fearful that some radiation remains or because they settled in other places.



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