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21 January, 2020

Evacuation Orders for Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka Towns to Be Partially Lifted in March, with JR Joban Line to Be Completely Reopened for Service

On January 17, the Japanese government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters decided to partially lift in March evacuation orders for Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka Towns in Fukushima Prefecture. The orders were issued in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs).

The chair of the headquarters, Yohei Matsumoto, state minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), had been meeting with local government officials, and came to an agreement with each of them at the end of December. This will be the first lifting of evacuation orders in Futaba since the restrictions were originally imposed.

In Futaba, the order for the area already designated as places “where evacuation orders will soon be lifted”—affecting 229 residents in 75 households (as of April 2019)—will be lifted on March 4.

At a symposium held in Tokyo in December, Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa noted that ensuring employment was an issue of high priority, while working toward the target of getting residents back into their homes by the spring of this year. The town, he said, has been making efforts to convince industries to locate there.

Of the areas in Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka that are designated as places “where residents will not be able to return home for a long time,” an evacuation order will be lifted for the train route of the JR Joban Line through the areas, along with the Futaba, Ono and Yonomori Stations, as well as the roads surrounding the latter.

Following the scheduled liftings on March 4, 5 and 10 in Futaba Town, Okuma Town and Tomioka Town, respectively, JR East has announced that service will resume on March 14 for the portion of the Joban Line between Tomioka and Namie, where it has been interrupted since the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011. On that section, there will be roundtrip service three times per day by the limited express “Hitachi,” running between Tokyo and Sendai.

At the meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe referred to the grand start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch relay set for March 26 at J-Village, in connection with the lifting of evacuation orders and the soon-to-be-completed reopening of the JR Joban Line.

Saying that convenience in the Hama-dori region would be improved, and that many people could be expected to visit, the prime minister said that he hoped for an acceleration of Fukushima restoration, including tourism aspects.

Meanwhile, Minister Kazunori Tanaka of the Reconstruction Agency said that the liftings were a major step forward for Fukushima reconstruction. He presented his intention to do his utmost to tackle medium-to-long-term issues, including the locating of industries and dealing with unfounded rumors and fears.

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