Minamisoma returnees keen to rebuild lives after lifting of evacuation order for first time since 2011 nuclear disaster.
Fukushima, Japan – On 11 March 2011, at 2:46 pm, Japan was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake which generated a tsunami along the coast. The casualties of the disaster included 18,500 dead, 90 percent of whom drowned in the tsunami wave. The bodies of 2,561 people were never recovered.
The tsunami hit the Daiichi nuclear power plant as well, a level-7 catastrophe that was the equivalent of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.
Over the course of five years, nearly 50,000 people have worked to decontaminate the plant and stop leaks according to government press releases. They remove between 5 and 30 cm of contaminated soil every day and place them in plastic bags, which are stored on the outskirts of town, pending a better solution.
In Tairatoyoma beach, a prefecture of Fukushima and some 50km from the nuclear plant, was among the most popular areas for Japanese surfers prior to the nuclear accident.
Surprisingly, despite the presence of radiation in the sand and water, some dedicated surfers continue to come here to catch some waves. They are aware of the risks, and the hundreds of bags of contaminated sand piled up on the beach serve as a constant reminder of the health risks to them.
“I put on sunscreen against the sun, but I haven’t found anything against radiation,” said one surfer. “We will only know the true consequences of our time in the water 20 years from now.”