OKUMA, Fukushima — A group of six elderly men that patrolled this evacuated town following the 2011 nuclear disaster disbanded at the end of March ahead of the lifting of the evacuation order for some areas of the town on April 10.
The self-described “Old Men Squad” was organized in April 2013 and was based in a town liaison office in the restricted residence zone. The group of temporary town employees was led by Hisatomo Suzuki, 66, former head of the general affairs department of the Okuma Municipal Government.
The team went into Okuma every weekday in rotation and worked to maintain public facilities as well as to help evacuees who were worried about their homes by carrying out tasks such as confirming gas valves were closed and disposing of gasoline left behind. Group member Tsunemitsu Yokoyama, 66, former head of the restoration work department at the Okuma Municipal Government, said, “I did everything I thought was necessary.”
The evacuation order, which currently covers the entire town, is scheduled to be lifted on April 10 for some areas that hosted only 4 percent of the town’s population before the disaster. A new town office building will open in that part of Okuma as the old building in the original town center is expected to be under evacuation orders for a long time.
(Japanese original by Tatsushi Inui, Iwaki Local Bureau)
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