REPORTING FROM SEOUL -– Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo, whose Japanese farm town was forcibly evacuated after the March earthquake and tsunami crippled a nearby nuclear power plant, has a message for scattered residents:
Endo told Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper that he and other officials would return in March to the village near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged by an earthquake-triggered tsunami. The disaster led to meltdowns that spewed radioactivity into the atmosphere and led to the evacuation of an estimated 80,000 nearby residents.
Endo said radiation levels in the village had lessened to an acceptable level and that it was time for the 3,000 residents to return and start anew beginning in April. He said public facilities such as schools and clinics will also resume services, a little more than a year after the March 11 debacle.
The announcement marked the first time that one of nine farm communities in the damaged Fukushima prefecture evacuated by the government will be reestablished. Many of Kawauchi's residents now live in temporary housing units in other cities in the prefecture.
Kawauchi officials this month will survey residents on their plans to return or not. The village government said radiation levels in many residential areas have fallen below one micro-sievert per hour, which they called acceptable for habitation. Still, those who return will be supplied with dosimeters to measure ground radiation levels.
The mayor acknowledged that many residents had concerns about returning.
"Those who can return will return," he said. "Those who are still anxious can return after watching the situation for a while. I hope [all] residents will return in two or three years.”
-- John M. Glionna