Fukushima disaster five years on

Japan is remembering the thousands of people who lost their lives in the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima five years ago.


The magnitude 9 quake struck offshore on a Friday and killed nearly 20,000 people.

And it left behind a nuclear catastrophe that still raises many questions.

Shortly after the earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the country’s north-east was flooded with large swathes of water as it unleashed a powerful tsunami.

Five years later, on the anniversary, these residents are remembering the experience.

(First:) “I thought I would die. It was really huge.”

(Second:) “I was on the Yamanote line train. And it was the biggest I’ve ever felt. It was very frightening.”

(Third:) “At first, I thought I had a puncture and a concrete boulder fell onto my car.”

The tsunami triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

It crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, where meltdowns in three reactors spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air.

At one stage, Japan upgraded its nuclear emergency to a maximum 7 on an international scale of atomic crises.

It was the first time the ranking had been invoked since Chernobyl.

The nuclear emergency also stoked anxiety in other countries, with some panic-buying of iodine pills.

Australia ordered a halt to food imports from areas near the plant.

That came as the United States, Singapore and Hong Kong imposed similar bans.

Shun Ikeda is from the Japan Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra and is also vice president of the Australia Japan Society.

Mr Ikeda says Japan has been vulnerable to shifts in tectonic plates and, as a result, tsunamis are, unfortunately, a part Japan’s history.

But speaking back in 2011, he admitted the scale of the disaster took many by surprise.

“I am sort of shocked and still have not recovered from the horrible scenes on TV and so on. But for the generosity and the sympathy and kind thoughts from the Australian people, we are very much appreciative.”

More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns.

Some areas still remain no-go zones, due to the high radiation.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has promised to speed up the decontamination process.

(Translated)”We are moving faster to improve the environment, so that, by March next year, we hope to lift the evacuation orders in all regions — except to the … in Fukushima as well, except for the most difficult areas.”

Around 10 per cent of those evacuated still live in temporary housing across Fukushima prefecture.

Most have now settled outside their hometowns and have begun new lives.