14:14 GMT +320 October 2019
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    Fukushima Nuclear Exiles in No Hurry to Return Home

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    Approximately 120,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture still remain evacuees because of radiation exposure fears.

    Despite the central government lifting evacuation orders on some areas last year, evacuees are in no hurry to return home. A rising number of them are prepared to start a new life elsewhere.

    According to the Cabinet Office, 79,000 evacuees received orders to move away from the Fukushima nuclear plant due to the high levels of radiation in the area, while the remainder took the decision themselves. Today about 46, 000 evacuees live in other prefectures outside Fukushima Prefecture.

    The central government approved a real estate tax break for those who are still under evacuation orders to help them in purchasing property. An increasing number of these evacuees are using the compensation to search for homes in the areas where they are now living.

    Naokiyo Suzuki, 63, left Fukushima Prefecture and bought a piece of land in the neighboring city of Sakado, where his house will be built.

    “As our families and young people have left the town, the environment there has been devastated,” he said to the Japan Times. 

    The population of Fukushima Prefecture has decreased by some 90,000 to 2 million since the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

    In 2012, the prefecture took measures including offering rent-free housing in the areas with low radiation levels in an attempt to attract voluntary evacuees to move back. However, the inflow of workers engaged in reconstruction projects filled the housing supply in the prefecture.

    “Support measures are not taking effect due to the housing shortage,” the Japan Times quoted an official at a nonprofit organization helping evacuees.

    Moreover, many voluntary evacuees have been struggling as they have not received any compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. for the damage caused by the nuclear incident at its plant.

    Hiroshi Suzuki, a professor emeritus at Fukushima University, said: “Measures to help evacuees rebuild their lives in new environments should be strengthened as well as those to help them return home.”

    “Although it is up to the residents whether they ultimately decide to return or not, it is necessary to create environments where they have a choice,” the professor of University of Tokyo Tatsuhiko Kodama said.

    According to a 2014 government survey covering 16,600 households in seven municipalities affected by evacuation orders, 48 percent of the respondents do not intend to return home.


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