Tokyo, Jun 30 (EFE).- The residents of a part of the town of Okuma returned permanently to their homes Thursday, becoming the second “difficult-to-return-zone” in which Japan lifts the evacuation order after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant.
Okuma, one of the two municipalities that host the troubled Fukushima plant, along with Futaba, was closed due to the nuclear crisis in March 2011. Although restrictions had already been lifted for some of the areas furthest from the plant, part of the land was designated “difficult-to-return” due to the high radiation levels.
This is the second time authorities have allowed the population to return to one of these areas, after residents of an area of the village of Katsurao, about 35 kilometers from the village, were also allowed to return in mid-June.
Thursday’s decision affects 8.6 sq km of Okuma located in the center of the municipality, in which its residents were already able to spend the night since December in preparation for a large-scale permanent return.
“It will take a long time for it to recover to its previous level, but today is a key day for Okuma,” the town’s mayor, Jun Yoshida, said Thursday in statements reported by the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri.
At the moment, about 330 sq km of land in six towns in Fukushima prefecture, including Katsurao, Okuma and Futaba, remain subject to “hard-to-return zone” classification.
The earthquake and tsunami of Mar. 11, 2011, triggered partial meltdowns in three of the four reactor cores at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which ended up spreading radioactive contamination in a wide area around the plant and forcing the evacuation of more than 100,000 people.
More than 38,000 people were still unable to return to their homes in February this year, more than 26,000 of whom were residents of Fukushima prefecture. Of the total, more than 15,500 continued to reside in temporary accommodation. EFE