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37% of Fukushima voluntary evacuees are minors: Mainichi survey

There were about 16,000 voluntary evacuees from municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture as of January this year in connection with the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and 37 percent of them were below the age of 20, according to a survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The Mainichi conducted a questionnaire of municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where voluntary evacuees had lived prior to the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. The survey found that 37 percent of about 16,000 voluntary evacuees identified by relevant municipal governments as of January were people under age 20. Those in their 30s and 40s -- the parental generation -- accounted for a combined total of 36 percent of the voluntary evacuees, the survey shows. The findings underscore the fact that the voluntary evacuation of child-rearing households worried about radiation exposure has been prolonged.

    The central government did not issue evacuation orders for 48 of the 59 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture. The Mainichi asked these 48 municipalities (including Hirono which issued an evacuation order on its own) how many of their residents took refuge in and outside the prefecture on a voluntary basis and the number of such residents by age.

    There were 16,063 voluntary evacuees as of January, but the actual number of such evacuees is believed to be larger because many of the municipal governments tally the number based on the number of registrations evacuees filed from their temporary shelters with the "National Information System for Refugees" run by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on a voluntary basis.

    By age bracket, 19.7 percent of voluntary evacuees were those under 10 years old, 17.4 percent were those between ages 10 and 19, 7.3 percent were those in their 20s, 19.4 percent were those in their 30s, 16.7 percent were those in their 40s, 6.6 percent were those in their 50s, 6.1 percent were those in their 60s, 3.8 percent were those in their 70s, 2.7 percent were those at age 80 or older, and 0.4 percent were those whose ages were unknown.

    According to statistics compiled by the internal affairs ministry as of September 2015, those people below the age of 20 accounted for 17.4 percent of Japan's total population and those in their 30s and 40s accounted for a combined total of 27.0 percent. As compared with those figures, the percentages of the voluntary evacuees in the corresponding age brackets stood out, with those evacuees below the age of 20 accounting for 37.1 percent of the total and those in their 30s and 40s accounting for a combined total of 36.0 percent.

    Of those voluntary evacuees, 4,593 of them had lived in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama before the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, 4,047 resided in Fukushima city and 1,290 lived in Iwaki -- the top three cities accounting for more than 60 percent of the total.

    Meanwhile, of the 11 municipalities for which the central government issued evacuation orders (including those such as Naraha for which evacuation orders have already been lifted), the total number of voluntary evacuees from four municipalities that had both compulsory and voluntary evacuees was roughly estimated at about 8,000. But detailed age brackets for the voluntary evacuees from the four municipalities were not ascertained.

    Based on the number of evacuees living in public housing complexes and housing units rented by the Fukushima Prefectural Government across the country and other data, the prefectural government estimated the number of voluntary evacuees as of the end of last October at around 18,000. The actual total number of voluntary evacuees is not known as there are apparently many other voluntary evacuees living in private housing units and other facilities.

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