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In the Fukushima Exclusion Zone

Photographer: Franck Robichon

 

Following the 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, tens of thousands of people lost their homes and are still living in temporary homes. Like over 100,000 people that are now 'nuclear refugees', the 21,000 residents of Namie in the Fukushima prefecture had to abandon their homes after the town was evacuated following the nuclear alert.

 

Located within the 20-kilometer exclusion zone, Namie saw its coastal area in Ukedo wiped out by the tsunami and its inland zone contaminated by radiations. Even if most of former Namie residents still hope to go back to their homes in the future, they are only allowed to return home for a few hours to minimize radiation exposure, and clean their houses often invaded by mice and collect some belongings. Wearing white protective masks and suits, former Namie residents have to drive through the highly contaminated town of Okuma and Futaba where the radiation levels are such that a future return is not conceivable.

 

Most of the former residents of the exclusion zone are now waiting for a move from the government and TEPCO, the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, to receive compensation. Two years passed since the disaster and frustration is gaining ground in the community. Cloistered in small rooms at temporary housings, evacuees are living in total uncertainty about their future. Adding to their despair of being out of homes, they are facing now remarks from Fukushima city inhabitant that consider them as 'assisted persons'.