250,000 Japanese still displaced 4 years after quake

March 09 23:27 2015

When a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, Yumi Kanno did not hesitate. She grabbed her 2-year-old son and aging in-laws and fled to her parents’ house two hours away. Four years later, Kanno and her extended family are still unable to return to this once-thriving village — and it appears likely they never will.635614225232411395-XXX-fukushima-recovery-4

Radiation levels remain as much as 10 times above normal in areas surrounding the plant, and scores of towns and villages remain off-limits despite a massive cleanup effort. “At first, I thought we would be gone a few days or weeks. Now, I’m not sure if we will ever go back,” said Kanno, 29. As Japan marks the anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster, officials concede that recovery throughout the region is lagging.

Nearly a quarter-million Japanese still live in temporary or interim housing. Hundreds of square miles of forests, farmland and townships remain uninhabitable because of radiation. Endless rows of thick vinyl bags filled with contaminated soil litter the countryside — but represent just a fraction of the land that must be scraped up and hauled away before residents can return. At the stricken power plant, radiation is no longer escaping into the air, but workers are still battling to contain leaks of contaminated water. The plant won’t be fully decommissioned for at least three decades. Mercifully, no one has been killed by the radiation, and no illnesses have been traced to the leaks, so far.