3 Years After Fukushima, a Handful of Refugees Finally Return Home

A district inside the city of Tamura is letting people back in for the first time since 2011.

Residents of Tamura's Miyakoji, a neighborhood 12 miles from Fukushima's nuclear power plant, were allowed to return home this week for the first time since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown on March 11, 2011.

Over 160,000 people in surrounding towns were evacuated after the disaster. According to Reuters, one third of them still live in temporary housing while the Japanese government proceeds with $30 billion worth of decontamination work. According to the Associated Press, evacuees receive $1,000 a month from the government and a one-time $9,000 payment for moving back to their home once their town is declared safe. 

The reopening of the district is seen by some as a return to normalcy. One Tamura resident who works for a non-profit helping with the city's recovery efforts tells the AP, "people want to go back and lead proper lives, a kind of life where they can feel their feet are on the ground." But not everyone is on board. Kitaro Saito, a local who doesn't think it's safe to move back tells Reuters, "relatives are arguing over what to do," adding, "the town will be broken up."

Radiation levels in selected spots around Miyakoji, according to February's official readings, ranged from as low as 0.11 microsieverts per hour to 0.48 in February. For comparison, central Tokyo yesterday measured 0.034 microsieverts per hour.

A security personnel holds a flag, which reads "Please Stop!", as he stand by a steel gate that marks the border between Tamura and Okuma town in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
A man walks near waste containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation at a storage site at Miyakoji area in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture, April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
A woman walks in a temporary housing complex where evacuees from the Miyakoji area of Tamura are living, at Funahiki area in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture, April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
Toshio Koyama, 76, who evacuated from the Miyakoji area of Tamura three years ago, looks at a damaged silkworm factory near his house after he returned home with his wife Kimiko, 69, in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture April 1, 2014.  (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
Kimiko Koyama, 69, who evacuated from Miyakoji area of Tamura three years ago, adjusts portraits of her deceased parents after she returned to her home with her husband Toshio, 76, in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Issei Kato) 
Teachers decorate a playroom at a Miyakoji child care center at Miyakoji area in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture, April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
A sign board reading "That's Enough, Radiation" is put along a street at Miyakoji area in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture, April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

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