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Fukushima fallout: Resentment towards evacuees grows in nearby Japanese city via Reuters

(Reuters) – Like many of her neighbours, Satomi Inokoshi worries that her gritty hometown is being spoiled by the newcomers and the money that have rolled into Iwaki since the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost three and a half years ago.

“Iwaki is changing – and not for the good,” said Inokoshi, 55, who echoes a sentiment widely heard in this town of almost 300,000 where the economic boom that followed the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl has brought its own disruption.

Property prices in Iwaki, about 60 km (36 miles) south of the wrecked nuclear plant, have jumped as evacuees forced from homes in more heavily contaminated areas snatch up apartments and land. Hundreds of workers, who have arrived to work in the nuclear clean-up, crowd downtown hotels.

But long-time residents have also come to resent evacuees and the government compensation that has made the newcomers relatively rich in a blue-collar town built on coal mining and access to a nearby port. Locals have stopped coming to the entertainment district where Inokoshi runs a bar, she says, scared off by the nuclear workers and their rowdy reputation.

“The situation around Iwaki is unsettled and unruly,” said Ryosuke Takaki, a professor of sociology at Iwaki Meisei University, who has studied the town’s developing divide. “There are many people who have evacuated to Iwaki, and there are all kinds of incidents caused by friction.”

[…]

Many established residents in Iwaki complain government payouts to the newcomers have been frittered away on luxury cars and villas, locally dubbed “disaster relief mansions.”

“The food the evacuees eat and the clothes they wear are different,” said Hiroshi Watahiki, 56, a chiropractor in Iwaki. “They can afford it from their compensation funds. They have time and money to go gambling since they’re not working.”

A poll in January by Takaki showed residents had conflicting feelings about the evacuees. More than half of those surveyed expressed sympathy for them, but 67 percent also said they “feel envious of their compensation.”

The tensions are unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

The government is planning to build 3,700 permanent apartments to replace the temporary units for evacuees, most of them in Iwaki. The first 1,600 apartments, however, are nine months behind schedule and will not be ready until 2017, officials say.

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