End of nuclear exile in Saitama boon for evacuees

Futaba brings offices back to Fukushima

Kyodo, JIJI

Officials from the evacuated town of Futaba moved its headquarters back to Fukushima Prefecture on Monday, ending a temporary stay in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, caused by the 2011 nuclear crisis.

The new office — the town’s fourth since the catastrophe — is in the city of Iwaki.

According to the Futaba town office, 3,782 of its evacuees are living in Fukushima and 3,132 in other prefectures. About 110 are still stuck in a shelter set up at a former high school building in Kazo.

Of the town’s 89 employees, 67 will work out of the Iwaki office and 11 others will remain in Kazo. The office also has a branch in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.

In the wake of the nuclear disaster, the town office was moved to Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, then to Saitama Super Arena in the city of Saitama and then to Kazo.

On May 28, the town, the last no-go zone, was reorganized into radiation zones termed as difficult for residents to return to but where preparations can be made for the lifting of evacuation orders.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said, “the town has at last returned to Fukushima Prefecture.” The move will make it easier for officials to work on reconstruction by strengthening cooperation with the prefectural government, he said.

“The closer town office makes it easier to lodge requests,” said Soichi Saito, 63, a Futaba evacuee now living in temporary housing in Iwaki.

In its reconstruction plan, Futaba proposes to establish “provisional towns” in the three Fukushima cities of Iwaki, Koriyama and Minamisoma by building public housing, halls and parks for the evacuees.

The town is set to start full-scale talks with the three cities about ways to achieve this proposal.

To meet its goal of allowing residents to start moving into the public housing in 2016, the town has to make efforts to select construction sites, establish ways to provide medical and welfare services and secure employment. Building schools and devising measures to assist long-term evacuees are also urgent tasks.

However, a survey conducted by the town in December and January showed that about 30 percent of Futaba’s citizens don’t wish to return.

The people who said they are willing to move or will consider moving to the “provisional towns” accounted for slightly more than 50 percent, and some hoped to settle in the places where they were evacuated, according to the survey.