Mothers who evacuated with their children from Fukushima Prefecture following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant are facing economical and emotional hardships, a new Asahi Shimbun survey showed.
Most of these evacuees are from areas to which evacuation orders have not been issued. In principle, those cases are not covered by Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s compensation, but mothers are demanding support.
Many parents and children remained in the prefecture after the accident began on March 11 last year. Some mothers, however, took their children and evacuated to other prefectures out of radiation concerns, leaving behind their husbands and other family members, who remained mainly because of jobs.
The Asahi Shimbun survey obtained responses from 222 such mothers.
In the survey, the economic strain brought about by family separation topped the list of difficulties.
Sixty mothers said they spend between 50,000 yen and 70,000 yen ($640 and $890) a month to maintain a second home; 63 mothers said they spend between 70,000 yen and 100,000 yen; and 48 said they spend more than 100,000 yen.
In addition to housing, 110 mothers said transportation expenses to and from Fukushima were a weighty expense, followed by spending on food and utility bills.
Differences in costs related to evacuation are believed to depend mainly on whether those who left the area live in houses for evacuees funded by local governments. Only a small number of local governments provide rent-free homes, and as many as 127 mothers cited the availability of funded housing as a factor to determine their place to evacuate.
Asked about what could be done to improve life for evacuees, a majority of the respondents said lump-sum payments for living expenses.
Many mothers were also concerned about the emotional effects on their children caused by the separation from their fathers.
An overwhelming 219 mothers said they moved from the prefecture out of concerns about radiation possibly affecting their children’s health, and 183 mothers said they evacuated because they felt they could not allow their children to play outside.
Nearly twice as many mothers cited their own stress as a reason for evacuation as compared with the number of mothers who cited their children’s stress.
Asked about how long they will stay outside Fukushima Prefecture, 49 respondents said they will do so until their children have grown up to some extent, and 47 said they will stay out of the prefecture until radiation levels drop. Forty-eight mothers, mainly those staying in remote areas, said they will not return.
There are a number of concerns about returning to Fukushima when the time comes. According to the survey, 125 mothers are primarily concerned about issues related to their children’s school, followed by relationships between their children and their friends and relations with neighbors.
Despite these worries and fears, evacuees said they felt the move was necessary.
“I just wanted to raise my child freely in nature, without having to worry,” one mother told The Asahi Shimbun.
The 40-year-old mother lives with her 9-year-old son in her parents’ home in Akita. They moved from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in April last year, leaving her husband behind. She felt it was up to the mother to protect her own child, she said. Her son now plays outdoors every day, coming home all muddy.
Some mothers also wrote of their feelings about the disaster and its aftermath.
One mother was alarmed at the declining public awareness of the issue.
“The problem of the nuclear plant is still ongoing for evacuees from Fukushima and people living in the prefecture,” she wrote. “Our worries are growing more and more.”
Another mentioned the anxiety over moving out of Fukushima.
“Some people are distressed because they cannot evacuate even though they want to. They have been hiding their true thoughts from others.”
But their biggest concern is certainly about their children.
“My 3-year-old daughter asks me, ‘Will Daddy come home today?’ ” another mother said. “My child has been waiting for my husband, and he can't come.”
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