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Prolonged evacuation order to end on June 12

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Rice fields are seen along a road in Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, in May 2018.

KATSURAO, Fukushima (Jiji Press) — The government will lift on June 12 an evacuation order for a Fukushima Prefecture district that has been in place since the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The district in the northeastern village of Katsurao, designated as a specified reconstruction and revitalization base, will become the first area in the so-called difficult-to-return zone to host permanent residents again.

The central government’s nuclear disaster response headquarters, as well as the Katsurao village and Fukushima prefectural governments, announced an agreement on the removal of the order at a news conference in the village office.

In 2011, all Katsurao residents were ordered to evacuate due to the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in the prefecture.

Later, the evacuation order was lifted for most of the village. Still, the Noyuki district, which is about 1,600 hectares and accounts for some 20% of the village, remains designated the difficult-to-return zone due to high radiation levels.

“We’ve finally reached the starting line,” Katsurao Mayor Hiroshi Shinoki told the news conference, stressing resolve to provide village people with “support for the reconstruction of their lives.”

Masahiro Ishii, state minister of economy, trade and industry, who heads the headquarters, said he is “aware of voices of concerns mainly about radiation levels.”

“We’ll work carefully, including for the establishment of a consultation system, while holding discussions with the village,” he added.

According to the Katsurao government, the village’s specified reconstruction and revitalization base, which is some 95 hectares, has 82 registered residents of 30 households.

But only four members of two households have taken part in a program from the end of November last year that allows locals to stay inside the district to prepare for the expected full return.