Fukushima three years later: A photo essay
[Ed. note: Photo-journalist Kristian Laemmle-Ruff was recently in Fukushima, where he took hundreds of photos documenting the continuing health and environmental costs of the nuclear power plant disaster that devastated a city and its people and shook the world three years ago today. A selection of Kristian’s photos and his commentary are below. His father—IPPNW co-president Tilman Ruff—has written here about the ongoing public health issues that challenge Japan and the international community today as a result of the Fukushima disaster.]
Upon arriving in Fukushima city, I was introduced to Hiroyuki Yoshino. He works at an organisation called Shalom which helps disabled people and children in the Fukushima area. Over the past three years he has urged the community and the government to relocate children to less contaminated safer areas, and has established programs to help do this. Despite his efforts many people don’t want to leave. The prospects of effective government support for wider relocation seemed to evaporate after a new national government was elected in 2013.]
Hiroyuki’s wife and daughter now live in Kyoto, to live in a safer less contaminated place. He has stayed in Fukushima to continue his work and look after his mother. He would like to see his family in Kyoto more often. I took a portrait of him outside his office holding a photo of his daughter who, due to the nuclear disaster, he is separated from.
We then walked up to a local temple and took photos of children walking home from school. The radiation where I photographed the children was over 1.4 microSievert/hr. We then drove around the surrounding areas to the cherry blossom and apple orchards.
We later visited a rubbish processing plant and the river, which are both highly contaminated. Many houses around the area had piles of contaminated soil which had been scraped off in their front gardens. The government officially refers to this as ‘temporary temporary temporary’ storage. No one is sure when or where it will be stored long term. Lastly we visited a plant which dehydrates highly contaminated sewage and stores it onsite.
Two days later, I visited a temporary housing complex where many people form evacuated villages close to the nuclear power plant now live. Most of the people here are from Namie town, about 8kms from the power plant. The people I photographed don’t know when or if they can return to their homes.
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