SIX years after the devastating tsunami that destroyed their town and caused a nuclear disaster, residents of Fukushima, Japan, face the confronting choice of whether to return to the ghost town they once called home.
In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered the 10m-high tsunami that smashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, causing multiple meltdowns and killing thousands of people.
The event triggered the worst nuclear disaster in Japan’s history and led to the displacement of 170,000 people from surrounding areas.
Japan’s government will lift evacuation orders on four towns within the more than 12-mile (19.3km) exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant later this month, despite reports of record-level radiation being detected.
The Fukushima local government is also preparing to slash unconditional housing assistance for the nearly 27,000 people who left areas not designated as mandatory evacuation zones, leaving them with the daunting prospect of either returning to a place they feel is unsafe or staying where they are today and inevitably facing financial hardship.
The conundrum has been described by Greenpeace as a “looming human rights crisis”.