2 bus stops set up in Iitate village ahead of planned end to evacuation

Fukushima Transportation Inc. set up two bus stops in the wholly evacuated village of Iitate on Aug. 20 ahead of the lifting of an evacuation order planned next March. Both stops are located on a regular bus route linking Minamisoma city on the Pacific coast and two inland areas, Fukushima city and Kawamata town, via Iitate. One stop is in front of “Iitate Fureai-kan (literally contact hall),” a brand-new facility opened on Aug. 13 as a hub for exchanges among villagers, and the other stop is in the Usuishi area. The village, evacuated after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, is currently divided into three zones: one being readied for the removal of the evacuation order, a residency-restricted zone and a difficult-to-return zone. A temporary homecoming program began in the village on July 1, allowing evacuees from the first two zones to stay at their residences on a trial basis. The bus stops have made it possible for villagers to use the bus service for the first time since the disaster. They are expected to improve the convenience of temporary residents and help promote permanent home returns after the evacuation order is lifted. Kaoru Shoji, 82, and his 79-year-old wife Masui took a bus from Fukushima city and got off in front of Iitate Fureai-kan on the day the stop opened. The couple from the village’s Sekisawa district now live in temporary housing for evacuees at a former elementary school in Iino, Fukushima city. They used to take a bus before the disaster to Minamisoma for hospital visits and shopping. “Now we can go to the Haramachi district (of Minamisoma) in a casual manner,” said a delighted Masui. Fukushima Transportation established the bus route in April 2014, operating four round trips a day between the east exit of East Japan Railway’s Fukushima Station in Fukushima city and the Kashima Health Center in the Kashima district of Minamisoma. (Translated by Kyodo News)