TOKYO, May 25 (Xinhua) — Iidate Village, about 40 kilometers from Japan‘s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is now almost a ghost town.
Few human traces can be spotted, weeds are spreading, dirty water flows everywhere, and no living sounds can be heard except for a few raven’s croaks.
Japanese photographer Hida Shinsyuu has visited the nuclear contaminated zone more than 30 times. Looking through his camera, he often cannot hold back his tears.
Even more so, when he sees “nuclear refugees” suffering from diseases such as thyroid cancer yet having no one to turn to, he feels a lot of anger.
“In Fukushima, families who have thyroid cancer sufferers are experiencing loneliness and pain, as they are unwilling to reveal the “scars” to their relatives or friends, nor do they want to tell their children about the nuclear radiation,” said Shinsyuu.
In June 2015, Shinsyuu met a girl in Fukushima who had thyroid cancer. When the Fukushima nuclear accident broke out, the girl was at her junior high graduation ceremony.
The following year, she was diagnosed as thyroid cancer, and had surgery to remove the right part of her thyroid. In her third year of senior high part of her lymph nodes were removed.
However, the thyroid cancer returned after she entered college, and she had to quit school to remove her whole thyroid.
The girl told Shinsyuu that she had a dream of becoming a designer one day. Quitting school has made that dream distant.
Her parents are angry. No one has claimed responsibility for their child’s suffering. They were told her sickness had nothing to do with Fukushima.
The girl is just one of 166 teenagers who has been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer, among whom 116 have undergone surgeries.
Five years following the nuclear crisis, the parents of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Fukushima have formed a group demanding the government provide convincing evidence that their children’s suffering is not related to the nuclear accident.
Sato Satiko, a mother living in Fukushima, complained about a governmental press conference to Spanish newspaper El Mundo in February.”Fukushima mothers were not allowed to ask even one question, all questioners were asked by pro-government press. The Japanese government and media are neglecting and humiliating us on purpose.”
Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Japan’s Okayama University, found that the incidence of thyroid cancer among children in Fukushima Prefecture was 20 to 50 times higher than the national average in 2014, three years after the disaster hit.
His findings, however, have fallen on deaf ears. The Fukushima prefectural government insists that the incidents of cancer and nuclear radiation are not related.
“The Japanese government hasn’t given any countermeasures against the children’s health problems in Fukushima,” said Tsuda. He says the government should learn from Chelnobyl and deal with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster seriously.
Nursing facilities to help reduce residual nuclear radiation are also lacking, according to Korobe Shinichi, a pediatrician and consultant for the Chernobyl Children’s Foundation.
“After getting treatment at the nursing facility for only four weeks, 30 percent of residual radioactive cesium in human bodies will be reduced,” said Shinichi.
However, such sanitariums set up after the accident are far less than those established after Chernobyl.
Based on the Japanese government’s approach, the long-term harm will probably be more serious than Chernobyl, Shinichi said.
He also pointed out that some families affected by the accident have become broken. Single mothers are suffering great mental stress and in urgent need of help.
Kanna Mitsuta, director of Japanese environmental protection organization “the Friend of the Earth Japan,” feels distressed about the Japanese government’s new policy of expediting the return of displaced Fukushima nuclear refugees.
The move actually means abandoning nuclear refugees in the name of reconstruction. Furthermore, the cause of the nuclear disaster has not been clarified and radioactive risks remain high in the refugees’ hometown, said Mitsuta.
A joint opinion poll conducted by national daily The Asahi Shimbun and the Fukushima local press in 2015 showed that over 70 percent of Fukushima residents were unsatisfied with the government’s countermeasures in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster. But for a government bent on putting the issue to rest, public opinion matters little.