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Danger zone

Six years after a nuclear disaster, Fukushima residents are being forced to return home

Six years after a nuclear disaster, Fukushima residents are being forced to return home

Six years after Japan’s worst nuclear disaster, former residents of Fukushima are being forced to return home despite radiation significantly higher than recommended safe levels and herds of radioactive wild boar that have taken up residence and no longer fear humans.

Saturday marks six years since the disaster at the nuclear power plant, and as the anniversary approaches, authorities in Japan have lifted evacuation orders on four towns inside the 12-mile exclusion zone, despite radiation being 20 times above the recommended levels.

The result is that some residents who fled the area in March 2011 are now facing an almost impossible choice — return to their homes near Fukushima or remain in their new homes, but with their housing subsidies withdrawn and compensation payments withdrawn a year later. The situation has been described by Greenpeace as a “looming human rights crisis.”

The directive will impact some 27,000 of the 80,000 people still displaced after the accident, which was the worst nuclear disaster in Japanese history. The meltdown in three of the nuclear plant’s reactors was caused by a magnitude 9 earthquake which struck off the coast of Japan and triggered a powerful tsunami that killed over 18,000 people and leveled one million buildings.

A survey conducted last year by the government found that over half of Fukushima’s former residents said they wouldn’t return, with fears of radiation among the main reasons cited. Former citizens were also worried about the safety of the nuclear plant, which will take 40 years to dismantle. Earlier this week, the company charged with cleaning up the site said its efforts to probe the site fail repeatedly due to massively high levels of radiation.

But radiation isn’t the only threat facing those who are being forced to return.

According to the New York Times, hundreds of toxic wild boars have been roaming the region and while boar is a delicacy in Japan, no one will want to eat these animals. According to tests conducted by the Japanese government, some boars contain radioactive material 300 times higher than safety standards.

Boars are typically slow to approach humans, but according to officials monitoring the situation, the toxic boars near the Fukushima plant have become settled in abandoned homes and no longer fear humans — leading some to suggest they could attack those who return.

As well as radioactive wild boar, the area has become home to colonies of rats, which have taken over supermarkets, and packs of unkempt dogs roaming the streets. Just as happened in Chernobyl following its nuclear disaster in 1986, the evacuated areas has become a haven for all types of wildlife.

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