30% of nuclear evacuee families live apart: poll

JIJI

Two years into the nation’s worst nuclear plant crisis, members of more than 30 percent of families that evacuated from four towns around the Fukushima No. 1 complex are still fragmented.

The figure reflects radiation fears that are preventing them from returning to their hometowns, the limited living space in temporary accommodations, and job changes.

According to a survey begun last year by entities including the Reconstruction Agency, fragmented families accounted for 46.7 percent of those that fled from the town of Namie, 39.2 percent from Futaba, 34.9 percent from Tomioka and 31.2 percent from Okuma, all in Fukushima Prefecture.

In addition, 3.5 percent of households from Namie and 1.5 percent from Tomioka were found to have been split across up to four separate locations.

“In many cases, the fathers are living in Fukushima Prefecture due to their work while the mothers and children have evacuated because of radiation fears,” an official in Futaba said.

Ayako Matsumoto, 50, who used to work for a social welfare council in Namie, lives with her 17-year-old son in Kanagawa Prefecture, while her husband and younger son, 15, live in Fukushima. “The four of us can only get together for the New Year’s holidays,” she said.

An Namie official criticized the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. for their failure after the meltdowns to quickly arrange evacuation sites where families from Namie could move to and remain together, unlike households in Futaba and Okuma, which cohost the wrecked nuclear complex.

Room shortages in temporary housing are another reason forcing families to break up, a Tomioka official said.

Meanwhile, some families have to live apart because the fathers changed jobs. In the survey, 20 to 30 percent of the respondents said their workplaces had changed since the crisis.

In a survey of Futaba residents, 30.7 percent said choosing a site to rebuild their lives will depend on their families being able to live together or at least nearby. This should be considered when building housing for evacuees, a Futaba official said.