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Over 40,000 still evacuated 10 years after quake, tsunami and nuke disasters in NE Japan

A closed-off sign for a difficult-to-return area is seen in the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture. Similar signs are also seen in other areas of the town. (Mainichi/Tomonari Takao)

TOKYO -- More than 40,000 people from northeast Japan still remain evacuated across the country 10 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the onset of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as the nation observes the anniversary of that fateful day on March 11.

    The populations in the 42 cities, towns and villages severely affected by the March 2011 triple disasters has declined 4.3% compared to 10 years ago. There are many areas where residents are unable or unwilling to return, proof that recovery of the disaster-stricken region is still far from complete. A total of 41,241 residents are still evacuated outside their hometowns.

    The magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the strongest on record in Japan, struck off the Sanriku coastline in northeast Japan at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, triggering massive tsunami as high as more than 30 meters, which engulfed the lives of numerous people and their hometowns. It was the largest natural disaster to hit the country since the end of World War II, leaving 22,200 people dead or missing.

    According to sources including data compiled by the National Police Agency, as of March 10, 2021, the death toll from the disasters totaled 15,900 and 2,525 people remain missing. Furthermore, according to the Reconstruction Agency and other sources, there were 3,775 deaths related to the disasters, including evacuees who died after becoming debilitated or took their own lives following a prolonged life at evacuation shelters or other locations.

    The catastrophic events affected as many as 12 prefectures in Japan ranging from Tokyo to the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. A total of 405,161 houses were either completely or partially destroyed. In Fukushima Prefecture, a total of 337 square meters of land stretching across seven cities, towns and villages remain inhabitable due to high radiation doses emanating from the nuclear disaster.

    In the tsunami-hit areas along the Pacific coastline in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, new towns designed to be resistant to natural disasters have been created. In Fukushima Prefecture, evacuation orders were lifted for some parts of the areas affected by the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, but there still are districts where residents cannot make it home.

    (Japanese original by Shunsuke Sekiya, City News Department)

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