JAPAN | Many residents in Fukushima confused by new govt plan for evacuations

Posted on June 18, 2011


JAPAN | YOMIURI SHIMBUN | Sat 18 June 2011

DATE, Fukushima–Many residents in Date and Minami-Soma, both in Fukushima Prefecture, have been confused by a newly announced government plan to designate specific points from which residents would be advised to leave if the annual accumulated radiation there exceeds 20 millisieverts.

Both cities have shown relatively high radiation levels since the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The recommendation points are the fourth evacuation category to be decided by the government. In contrast to the situation in planned evacuation areas, from which residents were asked to leave by municipality, residents of recommendation points are likely to receive such requests by individual house.

Whether to actually leave is essentially left to the residents. Many were puzzled, asking: “What will happen with my family?” or “How will the government support us?”

“I don’t know the details of the support and compensation we could receive. Will my house be designated as a point in the first place?”

So asked Keiko Endo, a hairdresser in the Ishida area of Date’s Ryozenmachi district, after she heard the government’s announcement.

According to a survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the estimated annual amounts of radiation exposure in some parts of Ishida will be 21.7 millisieverts. Therefore some houses in the area may be designated as recommendation points.

The Date city government is ready to provide city-run residences for free to such new evacuees. Among 44 households living near the points, 14 households have decided to move to other areas, while some families are still wondering if they should go.

Endo, 37, lives with four other family members: her parents, elder sister and her daughter Manaka, a first-grade primary school student.

Endo thought about evacuating with Manaka to a relative’s house in Chiba Prefecture after the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but gave up the idea due to her job.

In recent days, Endo has been checking the newsletter published by the Date government every week to learn the radiation levels in Ishida.

“If my daughter gets sick in the future, I’ll regret not evacuating at the time,” Endo said.

Located on the border of the 30-kilometer radius from the nuclear power plant, the Ohara area in Minami-Soma’s Haramachi district has about 120 households comprising 460 residents. In some parts of Ohara, the annual amount of radiation is expected to exceed 20 millesieverts.

“If we can choose whether to evacuate, we’ll stay here,” said Kayoko Moriya of Ohara.

A 61-year-old homemaker, Moriya has seven other family members. However, her eldest son Koichi, 37; his wife, 33; and their 5-year-old daughter evacuated to a relative’s house in the same city a week ago. Koichi’s family used to live with Moriya.

“The central government’s measures are always late. The high radiation [in the Ohara area] has been noted already. The government could have done something much earlier,” Koichi said.

Date Mayor Shoji Nishida said at a press conference Thursday: “We’re worried about the effects on children’s health [from radiation exposure]. But some farmers don’t want to move. We hope the central government will provide support appropriate for each family’s circumstances.”

Minami-Soma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai told reporters, “Being designated a recommendation point is undesirable, but we want to support our residents in cooperation with the central government.”

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