Tokyo: Only 13 per cent of the inhabitants of Japan’s Fukushima prefecture who were evacuated following a 2011 nuclear accident have returned to their homes after it was declared inhabitable again, the media reported.
The evacuation orders, placed in five areas after an earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011 triggered one the of worst nuclear accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since Chernobyl, were gradually lifted, completely or partially, between April 2014 and July 2016.
According to official data collected in January from five municipalities, only around 2,500 of the 19,460 people registered in the five municipalities before the accident are currently residing there, Efe news reported.
Local councils believe a large portion of the inhabitants who have decided not to return are people who do not wish to expose their children to high levels of radiation.
Evacuation orders are expected to be lifted later this year in four other municipal areas.
Eight towns near the nuclear power plant are still under evacuation orders owing to high levels of radiation.
The earthquake and tsunami, which devastated northeastern Japan and left more than 18,000 people dead or missing, struck the Fukushima plant and damaged its cooling systems, causing partial nuclear meltdowns in the three reactors operating at the time.
Radioactive emissions and spills after the nuclear catastrophe forced thousands of people living in areas surrounding the plant to evacuate, as well as seriously affecting agriculture, fishing and cattle-raising in the region.