. Earth Science News .

Fukushima refugees still in limbo one year on
by Staff Writers
Koriyama, Japan (AFP) March 6, 2012

A year after being forced to abandon homes and businesses in the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear plant, tens of thousands of refugees are still in limbo, unable to return and having to battle for compensation.

Some of those who fled the clouds of radiation that spewed from the plant after it was swamped by last March's tsunami could be allowed home over the next few years as areas are decontaminated.

But others may be unable to return for decades. Some towns will effectively pass into history, little more than names on a map where no one lives because it is too dangerous.

Twelve months on from the disaster, few have received the compensation payouts they expected from plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), an enormous utility whose tentacles reach far into Japan's political machine.

Pitted against the sometimes fearsome power of the company, refugees say they feel helpless, with one describing the battle for compensation as akin to "ants trying to tackle an elephant".

"We are still alive. We are not dead yet," said a 70-year-old rice farmer, whose now worthless paddies lie four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the plant.

"Some say we can go home after 30 or 40 years, but what are we going to live on until then?" said the man, who asked not to be named when he met AFP at the evacuation shelter where he still lives.

The government-backed alternative dispute resolution centre said that as of late February, only 13 cases out of the 1,000 filed with it since September have been settled.

The centre's head, Hiroshi Noyama, said he thought progress would have been faster.

"TEPCO has been hesitant about negotiating (compensation), much more so than expected," he said.

Nearly two million people are expected to be in line for some sort of payout from TEPCO, including refugees from the 20-kilometre no-go zone immediately surrounding the plant.

Outside the zone in Fukushima prefecture as a whole 1.5 million have been affected, with livelihoods lost as farmland has been polluted and businesses -- such as hotels or shops -- closed.

Lawyers acting for victims say TEPCO is dragging its feet over paying out for now worthless assets -- land and houses -- inside the exclusion zone.

The utility has offered nuclear refugees a provisional payment for "mental suffering" amounting to 120,000 yen ($1,500) a month, but now requires claimants to re-apply every three months via a lengthy and sometimes confusing claim form.

Tsutomu Aoki, one of the lawyers assisting people from Futabamachi, home to the crippled plant, said the money was not coming quickly enough.

"These evacuees need cash to live off now," he said.

"Their problem is how long the money will last for their daily life. TEPCO has shown no consideration for their desperate living conditions."

For the 1.5 million people outside the exclusion zone, TEPCO has offered a lump sum of 400,000 yen for pregnant women and children, plus 200,000 yen for those who voluntarily evacuated, and just 80,000 yen for everyone else.

The money is intended to cover the period from the disaster until December 31st last year.

The company as yet has nothing in place for any time after that, and wants those accepting the payouts to agree that they will not try to seek additional compensation for that same period.

Lawyer Izutaro Managi said it was unfair for TEPCO to try to close down cases in this way because the effects of the radiation might not become apparent for many years.

"The accident is ongoing, and nuclear victims still don't see a clear picture of how much damage they have suffered," he said.

A TEPCO spokeswoman said the company was trying to clear the backlog of claims and had increased the number of workers processing paperwork from 3,000 to 10,000.

"We are sorry for taking so long but we are trying to make sure no mistake is made. We will continue working," she said.

For organic rice farmer Mamoru Narita from Koriyama, some 60 kilometres west of the plant, the 80,000 yen he is entitled to barely scratches the surface of what he believes he has lost from the disaster.

"I cultivated my rice field without using chemical fertilizers or pesticide, so that I could ensure food safety and do good to the environment," said Narita, 61.

"Now the entire environment has been tainted, and we get that amount of money? Should we farmers remain quiet about this?"

Mia Isogai, 31, who fled with her husband and two-year-old son to Yokohama, said the family was struggling to make ends meet and without more compensation faced bankruptcy.

"We are paying for food and utility expenses from my part-time job. We can't even pay rent," she said, adding her husband is still looking for a new job.

For the household of three, the Isogais are entitled to a total 760,000 yen from TEPCO -- the equivalent to approximately three months of the average Japanese salary.

"Out of goodwill, the current landlord says he won't demand rent until summer. But that will end soon," she said. "I don't know what we will do then."

Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
A world of storm and tempest
When the Earth Quakes

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

Fukushima residents seek immigration to S. Korea
Seoul (AFP) March 6, 2012 - A Japanese pastor has visited South Korea seeking immigration for dozens of residents after their region was devastated by a nuclear disaster last year, an official said Tuesday.

Pastor and civic activist Nagato Tsuboi from Fukushima visited the southwestern county of Jangsu last month, a county official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"He came with several South Korean estate developers and said he was looking to buy land at a place similar to Fukushima, like our county and Jeju," he said. Jeju is South Korea's southern resort island.

The pastor said dozens of Fukushima residents hoped to live in a safe place where their children could live with no fears of radiation, the official said.

The Fukushima disaster was sparked by a huge earthquake and tsunami, leaving more than 19,000 people dead.

The official said Tsuboi described Jangsu, whose main industries are rice production and livestock farming, as a place similar to the disaster-stricken Japanese prefecture.

The pastor promised to contact county officials after returning home. "But he has not reached us yet," the official said.


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Radiation fears haunt Japanese food shoppers
Tokyo (AFP) March 1, 2012
For Japanese shoppers, food safety was taken for granted until the Fukushima crisis. Now many have lost faith in government guarantees and fear that radiation could have contaminated their diet. Meltdowns at the nuclear plant in the aftermath of last year's tsunami sent poisonous radioactive particles into the air and water, blanketing crops grown near the power station and polluting waters ... read more

Disasters cost $380 billion in 2011, says UN

Fukushima refugees still in limbo one year on

Fires brought 'under control' in Congo munitions depot: army

Japanese monk guards remains of tsunami unknown

IBM making the Louvre Museum smarter

In Swiss city, 'augmented reality' is out of this world

Virtual blue skies brighten the office of the future

Ubisoft assassin videogame heads for US colonies

World meets UN safe water goal

Current rates of ocean acidification are unparalleled in Earth's history

New report questions hard-edged 'living shorelines' in estuaries

Small dams, big impact on Mekong River fish: study

Sand layer plays a key role in protecting the underlying permafrost in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

'Alien' seeds threaten Antarctica's landscape: study

Ice dam collapses at Argentine glacier

Brazil needs two years to rebuild burned Antarctic base

Report raises alarm over Laos monkey farms

Australian floods to bring bumper farming year

The future of plant science - a technology perspective

Chinese land rights 'must not be violated': Wen

Fears ease after thousands flee Australian floods

65 killed in Madagascar storm: weather agency

Thousands flee Australian flood-hit town

Deadly Australia floods spark new evacuation

Algerian Islamists set to score in polls

US pledges aid after 150 die in Congo blast

Nigerian soldiers killed in creek attack: government

ICC issues warrant for Sudan defence minister

Scientists search for source of creativity

Bosnian fights to save 'bear children', Laka and Gvido

Neandertals faced extinction before the arrival of modern humans

Website lets people shine light on dark secrets

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement