Minamisoma, Katsurao residents to visit home to prepare for permanent return

The central government's nuclear emergency response headquarters said on Aug. 13 that residents of Minamisoma city and Katsurao village, where an evacuation order is in place due to the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, will be allowed to stay at their homes for three months starting on Aug. 31 to prepare for the lifting of the evacuation advisory. Those subject to the measure are residents of areas designated as zones where preparations can be made toward lifting the evacuation order and zones where habitation is restricted. In both zones, residents are currently allowed to visit their homes only during the day. Such zones in Minamisoma are the entire Odaka district and part of the Haramachi district, where a combined total of 11,702 residents are registered as of Aug. 1. In Katsurao, 1,360 residents are subject to the arrangement. Osamu Goto, deputy chief of the response headquarters, told a press conference at the Fukushima prefectural government office on Aug. 13 that the reason for carrying out the measure is that the "conditions for (residents') return home are almost in place, including progress in the preparation of infrastructure systems and decontamination work." He also said the timing of lifting the evacuation order will be decided by considering the situation of the designated areas as well as through discussions with local governments and residents. "It does not follow that the restrictions will be automatically lifted three months later," Goto said. He said the period of multiple-day preparatory stays may possibly be extended. The response task force also intends to allow residents of Kawamata town's Yamakiya district to stay at their homes for multiple days in preparation for permanent returns in the future, starting on Aug. 31, and said details of the plan are being discussed with town hall officials. Minamisoma is aiming to have the evacuation order lifted in April next year, while Katsurao is targeting sometime next spring. Places in the two municipalities designated as zones where residents' return is deemed difficult due to high levels of radiation are not subject to the upcoming preparatory home visits by residents. (Translated by Kyodo News)