Nearly 60,000 evacuees, 5,623 in temporary housing 7.5 yrs after Tohoku disaster

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A tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is seen surging inland in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, in the country’s northeast
 
September 11, 2018
Seven and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, but nearly 60,000 people still remain in evacuation and more than 5,600 people are living in temporary housing because of the quake, devastating tsunami and the triple core meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant.
According to the government’s Reconstruction Agency, about 58,000 people still remained in evacuation as of August, although their number declined by about 15,000 during the past six months. As many as 5,623 people were living in prefabricated houses in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, as of the end of August.
The construction of public housing for victims of the disaster is 96.5 percent complete, with 29,124 units built out of a planned 30,178 in those three prefectures as of late July. The achievement rate is 91.1 percent for Iwate and 98.4 percent for Miyagi. In Fukushima, the figure is 96.3 percent for evacuees from the nuclear accident.
Around the TEPCO nuclear power plant that spewed out a large amount of highly radioactive materials from the melted cores, 11 municipalities received evacuation orders from the central government. Although the orders were lifted in 70 percent of those areas by the spring of 2017, a total of seven cities, towns and villages still have so-called “difficult-to-return” zones with high radioactivity. Even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, the ratio of actual to registered residents is about 20 percent.
The central government intends to phase out temporary housing in Iwate and Miyagi by fiscal 2020 when its designated reconstruction and revitalization period will end, but the timing will be delayed to fiscal 2021 or later in Fukushima. The preparation of land plots where people affected by the disaster can build their own houses is 90.6 percent complete in the three prefectures.
 
Okawa Elementary School, which was flooded by the tsunami caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, is seen in this Oct. 15, 2016 file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter.
 
As of Sept. 10, the number of those killed by the 2011 disaster stood at 15,896, and 2,536 people remained missing. The Reconstruction Agency says 3,676 people in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, had died of causes related to the disaster, as of the end of March this year.
(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Hyakutake, Ishinomaki Local Bureau, and Toshiki Miyazaki, Fukushima Bureau)
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Fukushima evacuee asks for support at UN

 

 
A Japanese woman who evacuated Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear accident has called for international support at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
 
Akiko Morimatsu delivered a speech at the Council in Geneva on Monday. She moved to Osaka with her 2 children after the accident.
 
Morimatsu criticized the Japanese government for focusing only on policies that encourage former residents to return to the affected areas.
 
She called on the international community for support to protect children from further radiation exposure.
 
A Japanese official said the government will do all it can to expedite reconstruction, keeping in mind that those affected still face difficulty in their daily lives.
 
The Human Rights Council recommended last November that Japan should continue to support affected residents and voluntary evacuees, in line with requests from Germany and other member states.
 
The Japanese government says it accepts Council recommendations related to the accident. But it also says it has been providing necessary support in accordance with laws.
 

A message from Ms. Akiko Morimatsu, an evacuee from Fukushima

Ms. Akiko Morimatsu, an evacuee from Fukushima, sent a message to citizens who live near a nuclear power plant.
“–What is the hardest thing for you, seven years after the evacuation?
 
The hardest thing is being exposed to low-level radiation. It does not cause any immediate symptoms. It has no color and no odor. It does not cause pain; you do not feel hot or itchy. If you could feel the effects of nuclear exposure, it would be lethal. In Fukushima, when you are facing a low-level radiation exposure, none of the five senses can detect it. Therefore, it’s possible to get the impression that you are not affected by radioactivity while there.
According to the logic of those who want to operate nuclear power plants, there is nothing to worry about. These people are taking advantage of the fact that we cannot see radioactivity. It’s not right. In Fukushima, we’ve started to experience cases of thyroid cancer and other health issues, including unknown illnesses.”

 

“There is a reality that many residents in Japan continue to live away from their homes to avoid radioactivity in contaminated areas due to the nuclear accident.
In this country, there are many so-called “mother-child evacuees” where mothers have evacuated without their husbands to protect their children. However, the Japanese government does not keep the accurate number nor the situation of those evacuees, and continues to promote policies to lift evacuation orders for areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and encourages residents to return there.
A lesson from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima is that we should not create any more nuclear disasters or nuclear victims. It is a fundamental human right to live free from radiation exposure and to have the right to health, which are directly related to people’s lives and health that needed to be respected the most.”

‘You’re Contaminated’: The Stigma Against Japan’s Fukushima Survivors

Mar 12 2018
A 2011 quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, killing thousands and displacing more. Two ‘nuclear refugees’ explain why returning home is more complicated than it seems.
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Akiko Kamata and Keiko Owada.
 
This month marks the seventh anniversary of the triple disaster that hit the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, when a 9.1 magnitude quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Almost 16,000 people were declared dead.
 
While the nuclear disaster is becoming a distant memory for most Japanese, for some others it is their everyday reality. Nuclear refugees and evacuees face discrimination, separation from loved ones, and in some cases, they are even forced to return to the former evacuation zone.
 
The government, worried about people getting exposed to radiation, declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the plant and uprooted close to 165,000 people. As of today, there are still 50,000 people who haven’t returned to Fukushima.
 
Keiko Owada, 66, is one of them. When I meet her in Tokyo, she refers to the Japanese capital as her home for the past seven years. That will soon change due to the government’s decision to withdraw her free housing subsidies.
 
Because decontamination work has made progress and food declared safe from radiation, it has been deemed safe to return to most villages within the evacuation zone. The same goes for Owada’s village Naraha, where the evacuation order was lifted two years ago.
 
Owada is not excited about the prospect of returning to Naraha. “Would I continue to get financial support for my apartment here in Tokyo, I would have stayed here, yes. I’ll tell you why: there is no hospital in Naraha, only a small hospital for first aid. There is no supermarket, only a small convenience store. And the reason is simple: only a few people have returned.”
 
Life as an evacuee hasn’t always been easy, Owada explains. “It wasn’t like people were treating me any different, but my neighbors never greeted me. I think it’s because of the compensation I received and the free housing. They knew I was from Fukushima, that’s why.”
 
According to Owada, some of the other evacuees in Tokyo she knows have faced harsher treatment. “I know of others whose cars were damaged on purpose because they had a Fukushima license plate. That’s why I never parked my car in the middle of the parking lot, but always in a corner, so no one could see it.”
 
If anything, Owada’s story illustrates how many evacuees continued to live in fear. Displaced from their homes, dropped in a new community—the disaster is anything but over for them.
 
As an evacuee in Tokyo, Owada went back to Fukushima on numerous occasions. She can still recall her first time back in June 2011. The town of Naraha was still a no-go-area, and she and her family only had one hour to visit. “We wore protective clothes against radiation, with only a small plastic bag for gathering some personal belongings. We had too little time, and the bag was too little for our entire family. But I can remember the smell—[there were] rats everywhere and small animals’ feces.”
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Keiko Owada.
Of course, there are things she misses about her old town, like growing vegetables and fruits on her land. But it doesn’t take away the concerns she has about the dangers of radiation exposure, despite the government’s reassurance that it is safe to live there.
 
“Even though the streets and houses are decontaminated, they didn’t even touch with mountains and forests. Radiation hasn’t been cleaned everywhere. My house is right next to the mountains, so my house might get contaminated.”
 
Akiko Kamata, 66, still remembers how she was surprised by the alarm warning for a tsunami in her village of Odaka. When I meet her at a Tokyo café, she recalls how she sheltered in Fukushima the first few weeks after the disaster. “I still remember taking my first bath after 10 days, it felt so good.”
 
When Kamata got in touch with relatives living in other parts of Japan, she was shocked to hear one sister-in-law’s initial response. “After the disaster, I wanted to flee to Chiba [a prefecture next to Tokyo], my sister-in-law picked up the telephone and told me I didn’t have to come to their house. ‘You’re contaminated,’ she told me.”
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An aerial view of damage to Sukuiso, Japan, a week after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the area.
Eventually she did manage to find a place in Chiba, the region she grew up in as a child. “People were nice to us in Chiba. But still I noticed some skepticism. After I asked the regional authorities for financial support their answer was, ‘No, people in Chiba are victims of the earthquake as well.’”
 
Kamata did receive a one-off compensation payment from TEPCO: 7 million yen per person, or just over $65,600. Her husband received a similar amount.
 
Although Kamata is thankful for the financial support, they have not been compensated for the loss of income from their family business in Odaka. “I’m thinking about calling in the help of an organization that specializes evacuees with these type of claims,” she says.
 
Kamata has decided not to return to Odaka. Her husband’s illness (he suffers from a nerve disease that makes him reliant on Kamata’s support) got worse during the evacuation. She fears that it might worsen if they move back to Fukushima.
 
As Kamata remembers what life was like back in Fukushima, she uses a handkerchief to wipe a tear from her cheek. She barely speaks to her friends anymore.
 
“The disaster divided our communities, both physically as well as mentally. People got separated. One friend of mine in Chiba is thinking about divorcing her husband. He wants her to come back to Fukushima, but she doesn’t want this. One reason is exposure to radiation, but there are more reasons, such as her child’s school and the fact that they’ve gotten used to life in Tokyo.”
 
There is one more story she would like to share, Kamata says while crying. “One friend of mine is a farmer in Odaka. She had 10 cows. They evacuated to Chiba just like me and couldn’t go back to Fukushima to feed the cows. Once they could return for the first time to check on the animals, only three of them were still alive. The others died from starvation, and they were all looking at the same direction—the road the farmers would come from to feed them.”
 

Japanese government accepts United Nations Fukushima recommendations – current policies now must change to stop violation of evacuee human rights

March 8, 2018

Tokyo – The Japanese government has announced that it had accepted all four recommendations made at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the rights of evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The decision is a victory for the human rights of tens of thousands of evacuees, and civil society that have been working at the UNHRC and demanding that Japan accept and comply with UN principles. The decision means that the Japanese government must immediately change its unacceptable policies, said Greenpeace. The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was made in a formal submission to the UNHRC*.
 
Japan is to give its formal decision on 16 March at the the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva to recommendations made by Austria, Portugal and Mexico on the need to respect the rights of Fukushima, particularly women and children, and from Germany, which called on Japan to protect citizens from harmful radiation by dramatically reducing permitted radiation exposure.[1][2]
 
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Akiko Morimatsu, a mother and evacuee from Fukushima standing in front of MOFA with Greenpeace Japan. (c)Greenpeace
 
At an event held in Tokyo today, where two evacuee mothers, a leading lawyer representing Fukushima citizens, Human Rights Now, and Greenpeace, explained the crisis facing many survivors and the multiple violations of their rights by the government of Shinzo Abe and the implications of its decision to accept all the four UNHRC recommendations.
 
“Over the last seven years I have seen many different violation of human rights in Japan. The discrimination we are suffering as evacuees is a reflection of the attitude of the Government towards us, but we have been exercising our rights to be protected from radiation. I would like to believe the acceptance of the United Nations recommendations will be the start of a change in our society”, said Akiko Morimatsu, a mother and Fukushima evacuee from Koriyama. Next week she will leave Japan for Geneva, together with Greenpeace, where she will participate at the UNHRC session and give a statement where Japanese government will make its official acceptance of the recommendations.
 
“I cautiously welcome the Japanese government’s acceptance of the UN recommendations. The government may believe that an insincere acceptance is sufficient. They are wrong to think so – and we are determined to hold them to account to implement the necessary changes that the UN members states are demanding,” said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer for multiple Fukushima accident lawsuits against TEPCO and the Japanese Government.
 
“We welcome the Japanese government decision to accept all the four United Nations recommendations. Now they must apply them in full and without delay. The government policy of allowing people to be exposed to high levels of radiation is incompatible with their acceptance of the 1 mSv recommendation made by Germany. They must now act immediately to change their policies in the interests of radiation protection of Fukushima citizens, particularly women and children,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany.
 
Greenpeace radiation survey results published last week showed high levels of radiation in Iitate and Namie that make it unsafe for citizens to return before mid century, and even more severe contamination in the exclusion zone of Namie. High radiation levels in Obori would mean you would reach your maximum annual exposure in 16 days.[3]
 
The lifting of evacuation orders in areas heavily contaminated by the nuclear accident, which far exceed the international standard of 1 mSv/year for the general public, raise multiple human rights issues. Housing support is due to end in March 2019 for survivors from these areas. The Japanese government also ended housing support for so-called ‘self evacuees’ from other than evacuation order zone in March 2017, and removed as many as 29,000 of these victims from official records. This amounts to economic coercion where survivors may be forced to return to the contaminated areas against their wishes due to economic pressure. This clearly contravenes multiple human rights treaties to which Japan is party.[4]
 
The briefing was held at the House of Councilors office building.Speakers were Ms. Noriko Matsumoto (Fukushima survivor); Mr. Yuichi Kaido (Lawyer for multiple Fukushima accident lawsuits against TEPCO and the Japanese Government); Ms. Kazuko Ito (Lawyer, Secretary General of Human Rights Now); Jan Vande Putte (Greenpeace Belgium, radiation protection expert) Ms. Akiko Morimatsu (Fukushima survivor).
 
 
*The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000326823.pdf
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Universal Periodic Review (UNHRC website) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx
 
[2] UN Human Rights Council’s Review of Japan voices serious concerns for Fukushima nuclear survivors (Greenpeace Japan press statement, 14 Nov 2017) http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr2017111411/
 
[3] A dose of 4.3 micro sieverts per hour in average in Obori at 1m height, is high enough to expose someone to the maximum allowable dose of 1mSv/year in 16 days, following the Japanese government methodology.
 
[4] See Unequal Impact (Greenpeace Japan report) for details http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr201703071/
Contacts:
Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, email: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-6558-4446
 
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, email: sburnie@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0)80-3694-2843 (Currently based in Japan)

 

Evacuees from 2011 disaster number over 73,000

“About half of 35 affected municipalities in the 3 hardest-hit prefectures — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — have seen their populations drop by more than 10 percent.”
73000 evacuees march 7 2018.jpg
March 7, 2018
Nearly 7 years on from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, tens of thousands of people have yet to return to their homes.
 
Japan’s Reconstruction Agency said there were more than 73,000 evacuees as of February 13th. That’s about 50,000 fewer than the year before.
 
About 53,000 people are living in prefabricated temporary housing, municipality-funded private residences, or welfare facilities. Nearly 20,000 are staying with relatives or friends.
 
About 50,000 Fukushima residents remained evacuated as of last month, according to the agency and the prefectural government.
 
Some areas of the prefecture have been off-limits to residents since the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
About half of 35 affected municipalities in the 3 hardest-hit prefectures — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — have seen their populations drop by more than 10 percent.

 

Radiation Refugees and the De-Valuing of Life

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
 
We are approaching the Fukushima Daiichi’s anniversary, as the many news reports testify.
 
My brief “thematic” analysis of this year’s crop of Fukushima anniversary news stories indicates “returning home” as the dominant theme.
 
Fukushima’s refugees – both official and non-official – are inclined to be suspicious of the government’s assurances that they face no additional health risk by returning to officially de-contaminated areas.
 
Here is a particularly detailed article describing competing claims about safety:
Derrick A. Paulo & Tamal Mukherjee (2018, March 4). New cracks seven years on, as Fukushima residents urged to return home. Channel News Asia. Available, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-radiation-residents-return-safety-9888552 (accessed March 6, 2018)
 
…The upper limit of the stated safe range in an emergency is 100 mSv/year, but some experts contend that exposure to even 20 mSv/year is too high. Former World Health Organisation regional adviser (Radiation and Public Health) Keith Baverstock said: “It could be, living in your house, the dose rate is 20 mSv/year. The dose rate outside that area that has been cleaned up can be a lot higher. So no, it isn’t safe.”
 
Cancer specialist Misao Fujita, 55, contrasted the situation in Fukushima with medical X-ray rooms, where the typical maximum amount of radiation allowed is five mSv/year – a level that hospital staff “rarely” get exposed to, he said.
The article describes efforts by 70 Fukushima families to seek justice using the court system, alleging that the government did not release Speedi information (which I’ve documented in my published books), leading to chaotic evacuations and increasing radiation exposure.
 
A Mr. Konno, a resident of Tsushima, said that his child has had “cold-like symptoms for over two years.”
 
Japan’s radiation authorities are themselves divided, with some seeing evidence of exposure in people, while others hotly denying that any relationship between disease and radiation exposure can be proven in the absence of definitive evidence of exposure level.
 
Very elevated levels of children’s thyroid cancer stand at the center of the ongoing safety debates (http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2017/01/did-fukushima-daiichi-cause-cancer-in.html).
 
My head hurts. My heart hurts.
 
The Channel News Asia article also addresses ongoing contamination of the Pacific Ocean, which I’ve discussed frequently at this blog (most recently here: http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2018/03/fukushima-daiichis-ongoing-assault.html). Japan’s former prime minister is quoted as saying he is confident contaminated water is flowing into the ocean:
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was the premier when the nuclear accident happened, told Insight there is no doubt “some of the water is flowing into the (Pacific) ocean”.
Japan is not the only nation to have produced radiation refugees and to be contaminating the pacific and other large bodies of water.
 
In a recent chapter I wrote on radiation refugees I note that Pacific Islanders, whose lives and livelihoods were catastrophically changed by US atmospheric testing during the early Cold War, are still seeking redress. Here is a brief excerpt from this chapter:
For decades after WWII, legal recourse and compensation were denied to entire communities living in landscapes of risk after being exposed to atmospheric testing. 
For example, indigenous people exposed to atmospheric testing in the South Pacific Marshall Islands (1946-1955) were studied as experimental subjects by the US military, but to this day are still seeking full compensation for ongoing claims of acute health problems and property lost due to contamination. 
In 2012, Calin Georgescu, then-United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste, concluded after a visit to the Marshall Islands that many communities reported feeling like “nomads” in their own country.
Nomads in their own country. I wonder if that is what Fukushima refugees feel like. I wonder how long it will be before the US has its own newly-made batch of radiation refugees.
 
 
Trump’s promise to extend the operating license of nuclear reactors by decades ensures future US radiation refugees:
Ari Natter (2018, February 21). Nuclear Reactors Could Run as Long as 80 Years Under Trump Plan. Bloomberg https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2018-02-21/nuclear-reactors-could-run-as-long-as-80-years-under-trump-plan?
Radiation refugees are among the dispossessed. Their lives have been discounted.
 
We see the discounting of the lives of the exposed when we evaluate the assumptions of the new policy toward “ADAPTATION” of people in radioactive zones being promoted by organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
 
Adaptation is occurring as governments, including the US and Japan, raise the allowable exposure level after radiological emergencies. By raising the exposure levels, governments discount the lost years of the exposed and reduce the costs and publicity damage caused by evacuation.
 
Exposures levels go up while environmental health protections are lifted.
 
Life is devalued.