JAPAN | Italy invites Fukushima families to spend summer in Rome, Milan

Posted on July 27, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 27 July 2011

ROME (Kyodo) — Although it is no fun still having to live in an evacuation center over four months since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 9-year-old Momoka Sekikawa and her younger sister Yurina said they have something to look forward to this summer vacation — pizzas and spaghetti in Italy.

The sisters and their mother Kaori, 29, are among about 50 mothers and children from Fukushima Prefecture who have been invited by the Italian State Tourist Board to visit Rome and Milan to provide disaster survivors with an opportunity to take a break from the stress and worries of daily life back home.

“I am extremely grateful” for the Italian government’s invitation, Kaori said after landing in Rome on Monday night, adding it is the first time she has traveled abroad.

The Sekikawa family, whose home in the town of Hirono lies within the 20-30 kilometer evacuation zone from the crippled plant, currently lives in an evacuation shelter some 300 km away in Fuefuki, Yamanashi Prefecture.

The “Italian Friends for Japan” initiative provides free transportation from Japan to Italy as well as accommodation and meals for 10 days to a month for mothers and children who have been displaced from their homes close to the Fukushima plant due to evacuation orders and concerns about radioactive contamination.

The first two families arrived in Italy on July 1, to be followed by others over the rest of the summer through early September. As applications greatly exceeded initial expectations, the board gave priority to families in the evacuation zone as well as those with young children, according to its website.

The project is funded by contributions from the Italian private and public sectors, including a donation of over 100,000 euros by Milan-based investment firm Advantage Financial SA.

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