By Naoki Mitsuyama
FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on March 7 visited the virtual ghost town of Futaba, a once bustling community until the 2011 nuclear disaster hit and forced all the residents to evacuate.
His visit came four days before the ninth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami disaster that triggered the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and just a few days after an evacuation order was lifted for a small portion of the town.
Futaba is one of two towns whose jurisdictions cover the crippled facility.
Speaking with reporters, Abe was upbeat about the prospects of Futaba eventually recovering its former self, saying, “The lifting of the evacuation order for part of Futaba is a major step forward toward full-scale reconstruction.”
He pledged that the government would continue with efforts to allow evacuees to return to the Hamadori district of Fukushima Prefecture facing the Pacific Ocean and which covers Futaba.
It was Abe’s 20th visit to Fukushima Prefecture and his first since April 2019.
[…]While much of Futaba is still classified as a “difficult-to-return zone” because of high radiation levels, the area around the station has been designated as a core component of special reconstruction work to allow residents to return.
Plans are afoot to lift the evacuation order for the entire special reconstruction work zone by spring 2022 so residents can begin returning.
Abe took a test run on the Joban Line and met with Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa at the station platform, where Izawa explained what his town is doing to rebuild.
“so residents can begin returning”: the article shows no awareness that “openings” also force residents who still find the area unsafe and/or woefully inconvenient (lack of essential services) to return through suspension of support.