FUKUSHIMA - Nearly half of the families that fled from Fukushima Prefecture when the nuclear crisis began three years ago have been separated by housing problems, work requirements and children’s educational needs, according to a recent survey of the prefecture.
Although municipal governments in the exclusion zone have undertaken similar studies in the past, this was the first to cover the whole prefecture, including those forced to evacuate and those who left of their own volition.
The prefectural government sent questionnaires to 62,812 families and received replies from 20,680. The results of the survey were released Monday.
Nearly 49 percent of the households that were intact before the accident are no longer under the same roof, the survey said.
Now residing in a “temporary” housing unit in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Masaichi Koizumi, 78, used to live in the town of Okuma, which cohosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant, with five other family members.
Due to the small size of the facility, Koizumi’s eldest son lives in another home in Iwaki with his wife and their child.
Okuma’s approximately 10,000 residents have all been displaced. Koizumi has given up on returning to the town and is building a new house in Iwaki.
“I think I can finally regain the life I used to have,” he said, but added that he is “worried if I can blend into the new neighborhood because I don’t know anybody.”
In Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, a three-generation family of eight including a woman and her husband and their three children from an evacuation zone live are scattered across three separate units of apartment buildings rented by the city.
“I looked for a place where all of us can live together, but couldn’t find one,” the woman said.
Of around 132,500 evacuees, Yamagata has taken in around 5,000, forming the second-largest cluster after Tokyo.
Rika Takahashi, 41, voluntarily left the city of Fukushima for Yamagata, where she now lives with her second and third daughters. Her eldest daughter stayed with Takahashi’s husband in Fukushima but moved to Ibaraki Prefecture last month to go to a university there.
“From the beginning, families were often separated, but they are getting even more separated because of children’s education and other reasons,” said Yoko Tada, 32, a staff member of a Yamagata-based organization supporting evacuees.
According to the survey by Fukushima Prefecture, 67.5 percent of the households said they have family members complaining of “physical and psychological problems.” More than half of the cases consisted of sleeping difficulties and inability to enjoy things as much as before.
Of the residents who have expressed a desire to go back to their hometowns, 40.9 percent said they would go back if “their anxieties and the effects of radiation are reduced.”
But the nuclear plant still has a series of problems, including the leakage of highly contaminated water that is accumulating, while decontamination efforts by the central and local governments have been significantly delayed.