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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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Japan declares town of Naraha near Fukushima fully decontaminated

Residents can return to a town evacuated in 2011

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FUKUSHIMA, Japan - Japanese officials have said residents can return to a town evacuated in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

Naraha is the first town where officials have allowed people to return permanently, following several years of decontamination work.

The town is one of many in the Fukushima area evacuated following the meltdown of the nuclear plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 16,000 people.

More than 100,000 people in the area of the plant were forced to evacuate, but many say they are not ready to move back, and only a fraction have returned to Naraha for brief stays since a trial period began in April.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered a series of meltdowns forcing all of Naraha's 7,400 residents to move out.

The town, located about 20km (12 miles) south of the nuclear plant, is seen by the local government as a test case for the return of evacuated residents.

Authorities in Naraha are issuing people with devices to check radiation levels to allay their fears about radiation poisoning and have been rebuilding local services, including shops and clinics.

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said the lifting of the evacuation order was "just a start".

"The clock that was stopped has now begun to tick," he told local media.

Former residents held a vigil to mark the rebirth of the town, but according to one survey, just 46% of residents say they plan to return.

The earthquake in 2011 that struck off the coast of Japan in March 2011, triggering a huge tsunami, was one of the most powerful ever recorded.

More than 16,000 people died and more than 2,500 are still listed as missing.

Japan is one of the best-equipped countries to deal with the mammoth decontamination task around Fukushima. It is the only country ever to have suffered a nuclear bomb attack, when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians.> BNN

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