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Japan 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami Anniversary

Photographer: Everett Kennedy Brown

 

On 11 March 2017, Japan will mark the 6th anniversary of the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed almost 16,000 people and destroyed the lives of thousands more. The twin disasters also caused widespread damage to northeastern Japan and triggered a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the northern region of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

Six years on, massive construction operations continue at the power facilities to reduce the environmental impact of the nuclear disaster, while extensive ground cleanup operations continue in neighboring towns in the 20 kilometer evacuation zone, to enable former residents to return to their homes.

On 12 July 2016, residents in the Odaka district of Minami Soma, located just inside the evacuation zone, were allowed by Japanese government authorities to return to their homes. Only about twenty percent of the 3,487 households in the district, however, have chosen to return. Many former residents still fear the effects of radiation from the destroyed power plants. Most young families, faced with economic and health uncertainties, have chosen to stay away from the contaminated area.

The streets of the Odaka town remain relatively empty except for the constant traffic of trucks and workers involved in the ongoing cleanup efforts. Most of the former residents who have chosen to return are the elderly, who wish to spend their remaining years on their native land.