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More than 35,000 people still evacuated due to 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster

From front right, reactors No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. are seen in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

FUKUSHIMA -- March 11 marks 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster. The evacuation order due to the nuclear plant incident is still in effect for about 340 square kilometers of the "difficult-to-return" zones that remains in seven municipalities in this east Japan prefecture, and more than 35,000 people continue to be evacuated.

    No new evacuation orders have been lifted since last April. In the areas where the orders have been lifted, the number of residents returning to their homes is gradually increasing. However, in the town of Futaba, which hosted part of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the return has not yet begun.

    According to a Fukushima Prefectural Government summary, as of March 5 this year, the number of deaths in the prefecture due to the earthquake disaster, including related fatalities, was 4,151. By municipality, Minamisoma had the highest number of deaths with 1,156, followed by Namie with 623, Soma with 486, Tomioka with 476, and Iwaki with 468. Of these, 2,320 were certified as disaster-related deaths, an increase of 16 over the past year.

    The number of evacuees as of February was 7,185 in the prefecture, 28,505 outside the prefecture, and 13 people whose evacuation destination was unknown. The largest number of evacuees outside the prefecture was 2,966 in Tokyo, followed by 2,877 in Ibaraki, 2,730 in Miyagi, 2,667 in Saitama, and 2,662 in Tochigi.

    At a regular press conference on March 8, Fukushima Prefecture Gov. Masao Uchibori said, "The cornerstone of our policy for the past 10 years has been to create an environment where evacuees can return to their homes and to encourage as many people as possible to return to their hometowns. This will not change in the next five years and beyond," emphasizing his commitment to the return of residents.

    (Japanese original by Ryusuke Takahashi, Fukushima Bureau)

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