Japan lifts evacuation order for areas in Fukushima

Tokyo: The Japanese government on Tuesday lifted an evacuation order for two areas in Fukushima, affected by radiation from the 2011 nuclear accident, allowing more than 10,000 people to return to their homes. Both areas, with a combined total of 3,487 households and population of 10,807, are in the city of Minamisoma, around 25 km north of the nuclear power plant, EFE news reported. The city, which has a population of around 63,000, will be completely habitable again, except for one area with one house, government official said. However, many are reluctant to return. According to surveys of those obliged to leave their homes due to radioactive emissions, between 30 and 50 per cent of families are unsure whether they will return to their houses. Eight municipalities in Fukushima still have areas designated as evacuation zones, classified into three different categories. Except for areas in the third category - which states that radiation levels are too high for people to live in those areas, and will not change in the medium term - the government plans to lift evacuation orders for all remaining areas by March 2017. Cleanup and decontamination activities in residential areas have been completed, and these tasks were now being carried out on roads and farmlands. The nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant, caused by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, was the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Radioactive emissions still prevent thousands of people living near the plant from returning to their homes, and have severely affected agriculture, fishing and local livestock.