Residents of Fukushima Prefecture who evacuated following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are increasingly losing hope of returning to their homes.
The finding came in a survey by The Asahi Shimbun and a research team headed by Akira Imai, a professor of local government policy at Fukushima University.
Fifty-eight percent of the 273 people contacted said they want to return to their homes or held out hope that one day it might be possible to do so.
The figure was down from 65 percent in a second joint survey conducted last September and 79 percent in the first survey in June. The number of people covered by the surveys was different.
“While radiation levels fell in some places after decontamination work, high radiation levels may be found in other places,” said Toshiharu Kawase, 51, who evacuated to Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, from Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. “I have to wonder if it is really safe.”
In the latest survey, Kawase said he was undecided over whether to return to Minami-Soma. In the previous survey, he said he wanted to return if possible.
The emergency evacuation preparation zone covered areas lying between 20 kilometers and 30 km from the Fukushima No. 1 plant, including Minami-Soma. It was lifted in September.
Many residents have since returned to the city, and about half of its population now live in their homes.
Kawase is still torn on what to do.
Kawase said he is particularly worried about his son. He plans to send his son, a sixth-grader, to a junior high school in Nagaoka in spring.
“I wonder whether it is a place where I can return with my son,” Kawase said.
For the survey, Asahi Shimbun reporters in principle interviewed evacuees, who live in and outside Fukushima Prefecture, between late January and mid-February.
Asked about what their life will be like five years ahead, 30 percent of the respondents said they expect things to be unchanged while living in evacuation and 50 percent said they expect things to be different in a new environment.
The survey showed that a growing number of evacuees are considering living in new surroundings without having any hope of ever returning home in safety.
Only 20 percent said decontamination work by the central and local government had proved “greatly effective” or “somewhat effective.”
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