Gov’t offers to lift evacuation order for parts of Namie town on March 31

The central government’s Local Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters offered on Jan. 18 to lift an evacuation order in Namie town, Fukushima Prefecture, at midnight March 30/31 except in a no-go zone. The order, in force since the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, covers the whole town, classified into three zones -- a residency-restricted area, a sphere being prepared for the termination of evacuation and a “difficult-to-return” zone. The offer was made at a meeting of all town assembly members and a subsequent gathering of the town’s district chiefs held at a temporary municipal office in Nihonmatsu city in the prefecture. Whether to accept the move will be decided after consultations between the town office and assembly that will follow briefing sessions for Namie residents. “An environment where townspeople can resume daily living in Namie is in place on the whole,” Osamu Goto, deputy head of the emergency task force based in Fukushima city, said at the meeting. “It is important to advance our reconstruction efforts to a new stage.” The offer to end evacuation on March 31 was based on several developments conducive to the move. The town office’s all functions are scheduled to return to Namie on April 1 and a municipal medical clinic is to open next to the town hall within March. Also prompting the offer was the opening of a makeshift shopping mall last October. In addition, electric, gas and water supply systems have almost been restored. (Translated by Kyodo News)