| 15.4°C Belfast

Residents return to radiation town


Futaba residents donned protective suits to visit their homes (AP)

Futaba residents donned protective suits to visit their homes (AP)

Futaba residents donned protective suits to visit their homes (AP)

Residents of the town around Japan's radiation-leaking nuclear plant have donned protective suits and briefly returned home to collect belongings for the first time since the complex went into crisis in March.

Futaba's 8,000 residents were evacuated soon after Japan's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami flooded the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex and set off radiation leaks. Local officials and nuclear experts escorted several dozen of them back for a two-hour visit.

"It was just like it was when the quake hit," said Anna Takano, a 17-year-old high school student. "It felt very strange."

Takano said she packed up as much clothing from her home as she could and then made a 10-minute visit to her family grave site.

For most, it was the first time they had been able to check on homes and possessions. Similar visits began earlier for towns farther away from the plant, but Thursday's excursion went deeper into the 12-mile no-go zone around the plant than any before it.

Many evacuees from the nuclear zone did not realise how long the crisis would drag on and left with only the clothes they were wearing and their purses or wallets.

Due to radiation concerns, officials allowed only two people per household to return and let them stay at their homes for only two hours. They gave residents no more than one large black plastic bag for collecting things, because of space restrictions and fears of contamination.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The residents donned white protective suits from head to foot at a sanitised gymnasium near the perimeter, and then went into the zone by bus.

After the disaster knocked out cooling systems at the plant, it suffered explosions, fires and spewed radioactive particles into the air, prompting the government to order 80,000 residents around the plant to evacuate.

Radiation levels in most areas have since declined, but are believed to still pose potential health hazards if sustained for long periods of time.

Top Videos