HIRONO, Fukushima Prefecture--Hirono reopened its town hall on March 1, becoming the first municipality in restricted zones to do so since the nuclear disaster a year ago.
Even so, business could be slow for a while.
The town’s administrative office was relocated after residents of Hirono were forced to evacuate following the government designation last April of the area as an emergency evacuation preparation zone.
Of nine municipalities that were forced to move their administrative offices, Hirono is the first to resume operations at its town hall at its original location.
Still, with full-fledged decontamination procedures set to start, it will likely be a while before most residents return.
Motohoshi Yamada, Hirono's mayor, told some 50 town workers gathered at the morning meeting: "We will resume our primary work at the original town hall here in Hirono. It marks the real start of rebuilding and reconstruction work in preparation for the return of our residents. There are plenty of problems to solve, but I hope we will overcome these difficulties by working together."
The town temporarily relocated its office functions to Ono after the disaster, and later to Iwaki, both in Fukushima Prefecture. Since December, three months after the emergency evacuation designation was lifted, the town has assisted in road reconstruction and rebuilding the sewage system.
With radiation decontamination work finished at all the town’s elementary and junior high schools, classes are expected to resume in autumn for the second term.
The next step is to decontaminate public facilities and residential houses.
Hirono’s town hall didn't do a whole heap of business on March 1.
Shigeru Nemoto, a farmer living in temporary housing in Iwaki, stopped by bearing a document on radiation levels.
"I feel it’s difficult to return home unless decontamination goes smoothly," said Nemoto, 76.
The other municipalities whose office functions have been moved are Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha, Iitate, Katsurao and Kawauchi, all in Fukushima Prefecture.
Kawauchi plans to reopen its original administrative office in April.
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