Preparatory home stays start in Namie town, to continue till end of evacuation order

Residents of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, began to stay at their homes in parts of the wholly evacuated town on Nov. 1 in preparation for the lifting of an evacuation order issued after the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The preparatory home lodging program covers two town areas, a zone being prepared for the end of the evacuation order and a residency-restricted zone. A third zone deemed “difficult to return” is not included. Townspeople back home under the program relished the joy of carefree living at their residences. According to the town office, subject to the program were 7,655 families totaling 21,085 people as of Oct. 20. Of them, 112 households (281 people) had registered with the program by Oct. 31. “We can be at ease at home. We feel a sense of safety,” said Toshiaki Shiga, 72, who began preparatory lodging in the town’s Kitakiyohashi district on the first day of the program together with his wife Kinuko of the same age as the couple enjoyed green tea with a smile in the living room of their house. But inconvenience remains in the living environment, including for the couple. Toshiaki has to visit a hospital in Fukushima city for dialysis about three times a week as there is no prospect of a clinic offering such treatment being resumed in the town. “I would like to have the town build a reliable hospital,” he said. “Also, it’s better to have a supermarket in town where we can buy fresh food and other daily necessities. Then I think more people will be able to return home for permanent residence.” The town is seeking to have the evacuation order lifted next March except in the difficult-to-return zone where radiation levels remain high. (Translated by Kyodo News)