Japan prepares to lift Fukushima evacuation order allowing residents to return eight years after devastating nuclear accident left 18,000 dead

  • Japan is set to lift evacuation order in town where Fukushima nuclear plant is
  • The government plans to lift the order for part of Okuma town on April 10 
  • It will be the first time the order has been lifted in either Okuma and Futaba

Japan will for the first time next month lift an evacuation order in one of two towns where the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is located, officials said Tuesday.

The government plans to lift the order for part of Okuma town on April 10, cabinet office official Yohei Ogino told AFP.

Japan will for the first time next month lift an evacuation order in one of two towns where the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant (pictured) is located

It will be the first time the government has lifted an evacuation order in the towns -Okuma and Futaba – that host the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

A geiger counter attached to a fence near the Daiichi power plant  measures radiation in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture

Okuma mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe described the decision as a ‘very welcome move’, a town official said.

‘We will be able to take the first step forward (towards reconstruction) eight years later,’ the official quoted Watanabe as saying.

In March 2011, a massive tsunami caused by an earthquake slammed into Japan, killing more than 18,000 and setting off the worst nuclear accident in a generation.

Japan’s government has lifted evacuation orders across much of the region affected by the meltdown – allowing residents to return – as Tokyo has pressed an aggressive decontamination programme involving removing radioactive topsoil and cleaning affected areas.

But not everyone has been convinced, with a poll conducted in February by the Asahi Shimbun daily and Fukushima local broadcaster KFB finding 60 percent of Fukushima region residents still felt anxious about radiation.

Workers wearing protective suits and masks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, on February 23, 2017

A closed gate used to prevent people from entering the exclusion zone in Futaba town, Fukushima prefecture (stock image)

No one is officially recorded as having died as a result of radiation from the accident, but last year the government for the first time acknowledged the death from cancer of a man involved in the cleanup.

More than 3,700 people – most of them from Fukushima – have died from illness or suicide linked to the aftermath of the tragedy, according to government data.

As of the end of February, about 52,000 people remain displaced because of evacuation orders or because they are unwilling to return, according to Japan’s Reconstruction Agency.

The passing of five years shows as vegetation and the elements begin to take their toll on homes and businesses inside the deserted exclusion zone (stock image)

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident was the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986

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