The Guardian

Eight years after Fukushima, what has made evacuees come home?

Tens of thousands were evacuated after the tsunami and nuclear meltdown in March 2011. Less than a quarter have returned. Some of those who did explain why
Abandoned cars are covered by weeds in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, in February 2019. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

On 11 March 2011, one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded struck Japan’s north-east coast, triggering a tsunami that killed almost 19,000 people. In Fukushima, the waves’ destructive power unleashed another menace – a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Radiation forced tens of thousands to evacuate, turning towns and villages into no-go zones. Today, neighbourhoods closest to the plant are trapped in time. Homes have fallen into disrepair and weeds and other plants have been left to swallow up pavements, roads and once well-tended gardens, while boar and other wild animals roam the streets.

But a little further out, there are : new shops, restaurants and public buildings catering to the small number of people who have decided to return. Rail services are being restored and roads have reopened. The Japan leg of the torch relay for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will start at J Village, once the base for the response

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