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Evacuation Order to be Lifted in More Parts of Fukushima Pref. Town Close to Stricken Nuclear Plant

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
People walk along a road lined with cherry trees in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, in April last year.

IWAKI, Fukushima — Next month, displaced residents of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka will be able to permanently return to an area that is currently designated as a difficult-to-return zone following the 2011 nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Evacuation orders had been lifted in April 2017 for large areas of the town, which is near Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s stricken nuclear power plant.

The central, prefectural and municipal governments on Friday agreed on a proposal to lift the evacuation order in one of the remaining areas of the town at 9 a.m. on April 1. The central government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters is expected to finalize the decision in the near future.

The area comprises an about 3.9-square-kilometer zone that the central government has prioritized for decontamination work. It includes JR Yonomori Station, National Highway Route 6 and the Yonomori district, which is known for its cherry blossoms.

As of March 1, 2,580 people from 1,143 households were registered as residents in the area. So far, 54 people from 26 households have applied to return, and since April last year, they have been allowed to stay in their homes temporarily.

“At long last, my life will be back to normal,” said Yoshiharu Sugimoto, 65. “I’m looking forward to walking around the town and looking at the cherry blossoms.”

About 16,000 people lived in Tomioka at the time of the nuclear disaster. Only about 2,000 have moved back since the initial lifting of evacuation orders in 2017.

“We hope as many residents as possible return home,” Tomioka Mayor Ikuo Yamamoto said at a press conference.