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October 7, 2013

Broken lives of Fukushima

In 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulting in a meltdown that became the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years. About 160,000 people living near the plant were ordered to move out and the government established a 20-km compulsory evacuation zone. The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, is struggling to contain contaminated water at the site 240 km north of Tokyo. There have been multiple leaks and glitches over the last two and a half years. Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj returned to this abandoned area last month and captured these haunting images.( 25 photos total)

A small monument to victims is seen in front of an abandoned house at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, some 6 km (4 miles) from the crippled Daiichi power plant, Sept. 22. Namie's more than 20,000 former residents can visit their homes once a month with special permissions but are not allowed to stay overnight inside the exclusion zone. A total of 160,000 people were ordered to leave their homes around Daiichi plant after the government announced the evacuation following the nuclear disaster in March 2011. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Waves break into the anti-tsunami barriers as a typhoon hits the area near the Iwaki town, south of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 16. Almost all the beaches in Fukushima prefectures remain closed since March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. In July this year, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), a company that runs the crippled Daiichi plant reversed months of denials and admitted that hundreds of tonnes of groundwater that has mixed with radioactive material may be flowing out to the sea every day. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A twisted clock, spider webs and debris are seen from inside a damaged primary school at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture only some 6 km (4 miles) from crippled Daiichi power plant, Sept. 23. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A Buddhist monk wears a Geiger counter as he leads a small funeral ceremony for Yotsuno Kanno, who died as an evacuee at a cemetery in the evacuated town of Minamitsushima inside the exclusion zone in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 21. Kanno, who was evacuated after the disaster at Daiichi plant in 2011 with rest of people from Minamitsushima, died in temporary accommodation in May, two weeks short of her 100th birthday. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A woman, who came for a brief visit to her home, walks under a sign reading "Nuclear Power - The Energy for a Better Future," at the entrance of the empty Futaba town, inside the exclusion zone in Fukushima prefecture Sept. 22. Decades ago, the citizens of Japan's Futaba town took such pride in hosting part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex that they built a sign over a promenade proclaiming that atomic power made their town prosperous. Now, they are scattered around Japan with no clear sign of when they might return to their homes. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Mieko Okubo, 59, poses with a portrait of her father-in-law Fumio Okubo next to his jacket in his room where he committed suicide in the evacuated town of Iitate in Fukushima prefecture Sept. 18. Fumio, a 102-year-old farmer hanged himself in the house he lived in all his life after authorities ordered evacuation from the area following the nuclear disaster at the tsunami-crippled Daiichi power plant. Mieko, who lives outside the exclusion zone, comes back every other day to feed Fumio's dog and clean the house. She said Fumio committed suicide because he just could not stand to end his life somewhere else. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Officials measure the radiation level outside a shop in the evacuated town of Iitate in Fukushima prefecture Sept. 18. In 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulting in a meltdown that became the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years. About 160,000 people living near the plant were ordered to move out and the government established a 20-km compulsory evacuation zone. The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, is struggling to contain contaminated water at the site 240 km north of Tokyo. There have been multiple leaks and glitches over the last two and a half years. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A clock shows the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake at the kitchen of a damaged house in the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 14. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A vending machine, brought inland by a tsunami, is seen in a abandoned rice field inside the exclusion zone at the coastal area near Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 21. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Keiko Sato, 62, is reflected in a mirror as she searches for items in her house she visits in the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 14. Namie's more than 20,000 former residents can visit their homes once a month with special permissions but are not allowed to stay overnight inside the exclusion zone. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Wild flowers and other vegetation grow over a train line in the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 14. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Keigo Sakamoto, 58, holds Atom, one of his 21 dogs and over 500 animals he keeps at his home, in the exclusion zone near Naraha in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 17. Sakamoto, a former caregiver and farmer who refused to leave the exclusion zone around the crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant, decided to name his dog Atom because it was born just before the 2011 disaster. With donations and support from outside Fukushima, Sakamoto lives with his animals of which many were abandoned by previous owners as they left the exclusion zone. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A surfer carries his board as others catch waves before anti-tsunami barriers on the closed Toyoma beach near Iwaki town, south of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 19. Almost all the beaches in Fukushima prefectures remain closed since March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

An official gets ready to measure radiation levels on vehicles and people leaving the exclusion zone near the tsunami-crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture near the town of Tomioka, Sept. 13. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A doctor conducts a thyroid examination on four-year-old Maria Sakamoto, brought by her mother to the office of Iwaki Radiation Citizen Centre NPO, in Iwaki town, south of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 18. The non-profit organization offers free thyroid examination for children from Fukushima area. As the World Health Organisation (WHO) says children in Fukushima may have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer after the Daiichi nuclear disaster two years ago, mothers in Fukushima worry that local health authorities are not doing enough. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A road block prevents people from entering highly contaminated zone in the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture Sept. 13. Former residents can visit their homes once a month with special permissions but are not allowed to stay overnight inside the exclusion zone. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

People wear face masks as they visit the cemetery at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 23. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Big plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are dumped at a tennis court at a sports park in Naraha town, which is inside the formerly no-go zone of a 20 km (12 mile) radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Sept. 21. The most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted has proved costly, complex and time-consuming since the Japanese government began it more than two years ago in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. It may also fail. There is also the problem of storage. Most of the contaminated soil and leaves remain piled up in driveways and empty lots because of fierce opposition from local communities to storing it in one place until the Ministry of Environment secures a central site that could hold it for the longer term. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

A visitor from Hokaido takes pictures at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, only some 6 kilometers from crippled Daiichi power plant, Sept. 15. A total of 160,000 people were ordered to leave their homes around Daiichi plant after the government announced the evacuation following the nuclear disaster in March 2011. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Kasumi Saino from the town of Tomioka near the tsunami-crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant walks her dog May between pre-fabricated houses of center for evacuees, where she lives, in Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 19. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Firefighters from Kyoto pay respect to victims as they visit the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 15. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Fishermen from the "Kiyomaru" fishing boat pull in their net as they sail off the Iwaki town south of crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 20. Only a small part of boat's catch will be used to test for radioactive contamination in the waters near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, while the rest will be thrown back into the ocean. Commercial fishing has been banned near the tsunami-crippled nuclear complex since the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake. The only fishing that still takes place is for contamination research, and is carried out by small-scale fishermen contracted by the government. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Some of the fish caught by fishermen from the "Kiyomaru" fishing boat is prepared for government officials to collect near the Iwaki town south of crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 20. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Light and power lines from the tsunami-crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant as seen from Route 6 near the town of Okuma in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 15. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #

Portraits hang from the wall of an abandoned and damaged house in the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, Sept. 14. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters) #
 
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