Special temporary home stays begin in evacuated town of Namie

A special program permitting residents in parts of the wholly evacuated town of Namie to stay at their residences for a short period began on Sept. 1, about five and a half years after the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Eligible for the program were evacuees from a zone being prepared for the lifting of an evacuation order and a residency-restricted zone. The program, timed with the autumn season of Buddhist family grave visits, will continue until Sept. 26. A total of 307 residents from 126 households had applied for the program as of Aug. 31, according to the town office. "We can feel relieved at home indeed," said Shuzo Sato, a 71-year-old resident in the town's Gongendo district, as he and his wife Yoshiko, 69, sought to tidy their house. The couple had visited the residence once a week from their temporary housing in Nihonmatsu city to keep the house in order, but "a day's visit was too short to do enough work," they said. "The special stay program is important to pave the way for reconstruction." The town, close to the crippled plant, is seeking to end evacuation in March 2017 except in a "difficult-to-return" zone. It is set to consider when to implement a preparatory lodging program aimed at opening the way for permanent returns after hearing from residents involved in the special program about problems discovered during their temporary stays. Referring to the special program, Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said, "I hope townspeople will stay at their homes, remembering the town's atmosphere before the disaster." According to the central government's Local Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, the number of households as of July 12 was 2,922 (7,533 people) in the zone being readied for ending evacuation, 2,957 (7,907) in the residency-restricted zone and 1,128 (3,161) in the difficult-to-return zone. (Translated by Kyodo News)