Lifting of evacuation order eyed for parts of Okuma town in late April

The central government has begun considering lifting an evacuation order as early as late April in parts of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma, which remains wholly evacuated due to the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi power plant caused by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, officials said March 10. It will be the first time for an evacuation order to be removed in the two towns -- Okuma and Futaba -- hosting the crippled nuclear power plant. The government is seeking to time the move with an opening ceremony for a new Okuma town office building under construction in the Ogawara district where residency is restricted. "The town authorities intend to synchronize the removal of the evacuation order with the opening ceremony as much as possible," Hideo Yura, deputy head of the Local Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, told reporters after attending a briefing session conducted by the government and town for residents on March 10 in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki. About 50 people attended the gathering. Some expressed concerns over radiation levels, while others called for the need to deal with mobile phone companies not covering some areas with their wireless networks and for measures to prevent wild boars from causing damage. During the two-day briefing, no explicit objection was expressed against the proposed elimination of the evacuation order. The order is to be lifted in the Nakayashiki district, designated as a zone preparing for the termination of evacuation, as well as in the residency-restricted Ogawara district. Residents registered as of the end of February are 21 people belonging to 11 households in Nakayashiki and 353 belonging to 129 households in Ogawara. Of them, 48 people in 21 households have registered as townspeople allowed to stay at their residences overnight in preparation for a permanent homecoming. The town office is set to discuss the timing of evacuees returning home with the municipal assembly on the basis of the outcome of the briefing sessions. It will then coordinate its schedule with the national government, which will make a final decision. "We would like to see the evacuation order lifted as soon as possible in order to take a step forward toward our town's rebirth," Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said. (Translated by Kyodo News)