F is for Fukushima

This is a much abridged version of the full story - including many more images and interview transcript translations - which can be seen here.

In February 2016 I visited Fukushima, Japan. It was a few weeks prior to the 5 year anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake, the resulting catastrophic tsunami and corresponding nuclear melt down.

I wanted to visit the Fukushima area to enable to residents, who were just being permitted to move back to their houses, an opportunity to tell their stories of the day and the period since. Some of the locals were keen to move back as soon as they were allowed, while others explained that they could now never return.

The interviews were at times harrowing and painful, but at other times full of hopes for the future and happiness at what is still to come. The candid responses of the interviewees regarding their memory of and their feelings about the events surrounding the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear melt down and forced evacuation of their homes was truly remarkable. Their lives and those of their families were each changed by the traumatic events beginning on March 11 2011.

Telling the stories also involved visiting the very tightly controlled "no-go" zone. Which involved the use of chemical suits, masks and geiger counters. The experience was surreal and haunting.

Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami & Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster

[italics sourced mainly from Wikipedia] On the 11 March 2011 14:46 JST, the 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake struck approximately 70km east of the Japanese coast. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to have hit Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since recordings began in 1900. The earthquake occurring at an underwater depth of approximately 30km triggered a massive tsunami that reached heights of up to 40.5m, travelling inland up to 10 km at it’s furthest point. In the area of Naraha (focus of this documentary), a wave of height ~15 m arrived approximately 1hr after the earthquake and travelled a distance of between 1-2 km inland - depending on local elevation. The tsunami wave also resulted in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster at the Nuclear Power Plant - which was caused by equipment failures resulting in three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive material beginning 12 March 2011. The tsunami wave impacting at the site of the Nuclear Power Plant at a height of 13m, overwhelmed the plants 10m high seawall. On 10 March 2015, a Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,894 deaths, 6,152 injured and 2,562 people missing across twenty prefectures, as well as 228,863 people living away from their home in either temporary housing or due to permanent relocation. A 10 February 2014 agency report listed 127,290 buildings totally collapsed, with a further 272,788 buildings ‘half collapsed’, and another 747,989 buildings partially damaged.

© 2020 Mark Forbes.
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