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Most evacuees under 50 from three Fukushima towns near nuclear disaster have no plan to return

Kyodo

A majority of people under age 50 who had lived in three towns close to the site of the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster have no plans to return, an official survey showed Saturday.

Many former residents of Futaba, Namie and Tomioka say they have established new lives elsewhere and that their adopted hometowns are more convenient.

The three towns were subject to government evacuation orders in the wake of the crisis at the plant, which was triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The orders for Namie and Tomioka were partially lifted in 2017. But more than 60 percent of evacuees from the two towns in their 20s and 30s and more than 50 percent in their 40s said they would not return, with other major reasons cited including concerns over the lack of medical and commercial facilities.

Regardless of age group, 49.9 percent of former Namie residents and 48.1 percent of former Tomioka residents said they would not return.

As for Futaba, which hosts part of the crippled nuclear plant and remains off limits for residents, similar proportions of those in the 20s, 30s and 40s said they would not return, and the overall figure, regardless of age group, stood at 61.5 percent.

The survey, conducted between August and November last year in cooperation with the Reconstruction Agency and Fukushima Prefecture, included answers from 7,500 households across the three towns and suggests a grim outlook for the municipalities as they struggle to rebuild and attract younger people.

Speaking ahead of the eighth anniversary on Monday of the quake and tsunami that left more than 18,000 people dead or missing and led to the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, an official at the agency called for steps to make the town more attractive.

“There is a limited number of residents willing to return,” the official said. “We need to create an improved employment environment to attract newcomers.”

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