Municipal officials return to Futaba over a decade after 3/11 disaster

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The new municipal office of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture

FUKUSHIMA — The local government in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, held an opening ceremony at its new municipal office Saturday, 11½ years after all residents were evacuated from the town in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear meltdown at a power plant in the prefecture.

Futaba’s previous municipal office was severely damaged in the earthquake, which triggered a tsunami that devastated areas across northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant straddles municipalities including Futaba, the last town for which an evacuation order is still in place for the whole community.

Local officials have conducted municipal government functions in several locations since the disaster.

The town’s about 7,000 residents were evacuated to locations around the country following the disaster.

Futaba officials initially carried out local government functions at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama City. They were later relocated to Kazo, also in Saitama Prefecture, and then to Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in June 2013.

Most areas in Futaba have been designated as “difficult-to-return zones” by the central government.

The evacuation order is scheduled to be lifted in some parts of the town, including the location of the new municipal office.

Located near Futaba station, the office is in a special zone where the central government is conducting decontamination and infrastructure improvement work.

The evacuation order for the zone will be lifted on Monday and the municipal office is set to begin operations on Sept. 5.