The Japanese government continues to expand the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plants. Tests have shown that some locals have been exposed to high levels of radiation for too long.
Locals around Fukushima has been exposed to a high level of radiation for too long
The houses along the main road of Iitate look deserted and the few businesses there are their blinds down.
This mountain village, located about 40 kilometers away from the Fukushima nuclear plant, is supposed to be evacuated within a month.
Test results have shown that the levels of radiation that have accumulated over the past few weeks will soon have reached the maximum annual dose.
Although some of the villagers are worried this does not stop them from keeping a smile on their face, or going to the supermarket to do their daily shopping.
The accumulated levels of radiation even outside of the evacuation zone could soon reach the maximum annual dose
One farmer laughs as he says that he is actually "very scared". The 65-year-old had originally not planned to go away but he says he will now follow the local authorities' instructions even though he "barely has any money."
The Japanese government has ordered that the inhabitants of Iitate, Namie and parts of Kawamata be evacuated. However, they still do not know where to go and for how long the will have to stay away. Some also wonder why the measure is being taken now.
No clear instructions from the government
For Ken Nozaki, who works in an old people's home in Fukushima but still lives in Iitate, the situation is confusing. "The government is planning an evacuation but has not given us any more information. There are no details," he says.
He wants the government to clearly tell the people what they have to do if it has decided on something. "The least it can do is to give instructions."
A lot of people share Ken Nozaki's opinion and are now wondering whether they were right to stay especially as many sent their relatives away soon after the earthquake.
"When I saw on the news on March 13 that there had been explosions in reactor number one at the nuclear plant, I decided that my wife and children definitely had to leave the emergency zone," Nozaki recalls. His family is now staying in his wife's home village in Yamagata.
There are not enough volunteers to clean up the destroyed coastal region
"After the earthquake, we thought it would make sense to leave," says the unnamed 65-year-old farmer. "My son and his wife and children went back to the village that my step-daughter used to live in."
Economic problems for the evacuees
Located about 20 kilometers away from Iitate, the village of Minamisoma by the coast lies within the zone around the damaged nuclear plant. People in the area have been told to stay in their homes.
Therefore, there is almost nobody to be seen on the streets. While restaurants and most shops are closed, smaller supermarket branches are providing those who have stayed behind with the essentials.
More than four weeks after the disaster, it still looks as if the waves just passed over the fields and the houses. There are few volunteers here to help with clean-up operations in the heavily-damaged coastal region. Some districts might also have to be evacuated because of high radiation levels.
However, evacuation means that people cannot work and earn a living.
."I think we should get compensation," says the farmer back in Iitate who no longer can sell the vegetables that he cultivates.
Compensation for all those affected in the emergency zone and around could be costly for Japan.
Author: Peter Kujath / ag
Editor: Anne Thomas