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Over 120,000 evacuees remain 6 years after Great East Japan Earthquake

A man rings a bell for his older brother, who died in a tsunami from the Great East Japan Earthquake, at a memorial at the remains of Nakano Elementary School, in Miyagino Ward, Sendai, on March 10, 2017. (Mainichi)

More than 120,000 people remain in evacuation following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster, even after the passage of six years.

According to statistics released on March 10 by the National Police Agency, there were 15,893 deaths from the Great East Japan Earthquake and 2,553 people still unaccounted for, making it the worst natural disaster to hit Japan in the post-World War II period. Additionally, as of the end of September 2016, there had been 3,523 deaths indirectly caused by the disaster, such as falling ill during evacuation, an increase of 116 people compared to the previous year. Among these deaths, 2,086 were of Fukushima Prefecture residents, more than the number of residents from that prefecture who died directly from the disaster.

The number of disaster evacuees counted by the Reconstruction Agency has fallen from its peak of around 347,000 in June 2012 to about one-third of this amount at 123,168 as of February this year. Of them, 79,226 are evacuees who hail from Fukushima Prefecture. According to Jan. 1 statistics by Kyodo News, the number of people living in reconstruction housing in the three hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima was 39,664, more than the number living in temporary evacuee housing, which is about 34,000.

Evacuation orders that were issued by the national government for 11 Fukushima municipalities have been lifted or are planned to be lifted in nine of those municipalities. The other two municipalities, the towns of Okuma and Futaba, remain completely under evacuation orders. The area of land under evacuation orders has fallen to around 30 percent of what it originally was, but only about 8 percent of those who had lived in areas with their evacuation orders lifted are expected to return.

Due to delays in the building of reconstruction housing and the preparation of land for it and other permanent housing, and due to the effects of the nuclear disaster, people are expected to further remain in evacuation. In Fukushima Prefecture, free housing for people who evacuated from areas outside of those under evacuation orders will expire as of the end of March.

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