FUKUSHIMA - The government on Tuesday lifted the evacuation order for all but a tiny slice of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, allowing more than 10,000 people to return to homes that have been off-limits since the 2011 nuclear crisis.
The city is now habitable except for one area containing one house, but many residents appear uneager to return, having begun new lives elsewhere.
To encourage evacuees to return, the central government and the city reopened hospital facilities, built makeshift commercial facilities and prepared other infrastructure.
The newly opened areas have 3,487 households.
Radiation cleanup activities have finished in residential areas but will continue for roads and farmland until next March.
The government is in the process of gradually lifting evacuation orders in areas within 20 km of the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear facility and in certain areas beyond the zone amid ongoing radiation cleanup efforts.
Eight municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have areas defined as evacuation zones, which are divided into three categories based on their radiation levels. The most seriously contaminated areas are called zones “where it is expected that the residents have difficulties in returning for a long time.”
The government hopes to lift the remaining evacuation orders affecting areas other than the difficult-to-return zones by next March, officials said.