Fukushima prefecture’s Kawauchi residents who evacuated from their village near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were allowed to return home briefly last Tuesday to pick up personal belongings. This was the first government-led operation for the evacuees.
Kawauchi village is one of the cities, towns and villages designated by the government in late April as a legally binding no-entry zone within a 20km (12 miles) radius of the plant.
Clad from head to toe in white protective suits, they got off the buses and received a screening test for signs of nuclear radiation at a village gymnasium after a two-hour trip inside the no-entry zone.
Each clutched a large plastic bag provided beforehand — a quota had been placed on the amount of belongings that could be salvaged. Most were filled with clothing but included photos and stuffed toy animals. Some residents salvaged bank statements or certifications of mutual aid association. I had the sense that the situation occurred suddenly and brought about unexpected change in their lives.
Some residents feared they may never be able to go back.
Some of the residents took bags of pet food into the village to help their animal companions survive until their next visit.