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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Vague plan for nuke evacuees
Return home may start in January; Tepco to begin compensation in fall
By ALEX MARTIN
The government released a plan Tuesday outlining when people forced to evacuate due to the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture might be able to leave their shelters and go home, setting a tentative target of January.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other members of the government's nuclear disaster headquarters, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda, who oversees the nuclear industry, vowed the government will do everything it can to ensure that evacuees will eventually be able to return to their communities.
"The evacuees from the nuclear disaster are victims of the nation's nuclear policy . . . the government will have to properly address the sense of betrayal they must be feeling," he said.
The road map was released in tandem with Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s revised plan for stabilizing the Fukushima reactors.
It says the midterm guidelines for Tepco's compensation scheme for disaster victims will be decided by mid-July, and the payment process will begin sometime this fall.
Provisional lump-sum payments by Tepco to the evacuees, which have already started, will be completed by the end of this month, followed by provisional payments to businesses.
The road map also says that construction of roughly 24,000 temporary housing units will be completed by mid-August. Health checks of people from the disaster zone will begin sometime after this month, in tandem with environmental monitoring and analysis of the area.
Securing jobs for disaster victims and supporting farming and other industries were also included as part of the government's efforts, including interest-free long-term loans to be issued with the assistance of Fukushima Prefecture.
While a date for when the evacuees could go home wasn't mentioned in the road map, Kaieda said he hopes that at least some of the evacuees can begin returning by early January.
The quake and tsunami that hit the nation March 11 and triggered the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant led the government to direct those within 20 km of the plant to evacuate and those between 20 km and 30km to remain indoors or leave voluntarily.
As of May 16, more than 7,000 evacuees from the nuclear zone were stuck in shelters in Fukushima Prefecture, while more than 35,000 were taking refuge in other prefectures.
Ambulance calls rise
Nearly 3,000 evacuees living in shelters in three of the northeastern prefectures worst affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami have been taken to hospitals by ambulance, according to a Kyodo News survey released Tuesday.
At least 2,816 evacuees suffering from stress and poor hygienic conditions were rushed to hospitals from shelters in coastal parts of Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, the survey of 15 fire departments showed.
A total of 871 were taken to hospitals from Ishinomaki, Higashi-Matsuyama and Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, while 299 were taken to hospitals from Sendai, and another 248 to hospitals from the Shiogama area.
In Iwate Prefecture, 298 were taken to hospitals from the Miyako area, while 149 were taken to hospitals from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
Masaaki Abe, an official at Japanese Red Cross Ishinomaki Hospital, said the number of people rushed to hospitals in April was 4,084, compared with the monthly average of around 1,800.
He said "living in the stressful conditions of shelters has been prolonged and many victims have continued to live in damaged homes where hygienic conditions are poor."