Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, Japan

"I am not giving up"

Katsutaka Idogawa was the mayor of Futaba, one of the towns most strongly hit by the nuclear disaster, from 2004 until he was voted out of office in 2013.

Beds are left in front of a hospital in the deserted town of Futaba, inside the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone. (Bild: www.cryptome.org)

"The ruling Liberal Democrats schemed against me in the city parliament until I was voted out of office in 2013. They wanted to shut me up, but I will not let myself be gagged. I was elected as an independent to the office of mayor of Futaba in 2004. The town is located 10 kilometres south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, and 1,000 of the town's 7,000 residents were employed there. We had emergency drills here and there, but it was clear that these sandbox games would not be enough in the face of a major disaster. Despite my objectives, I was always assured that everything was under control. But that wasn't the case at all. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami on 11 March 2011 destroyed 90 per cent of the houses. There was total chaos, but people remained calm and collected because we've learned to live with such natural disasters. But no one was prepared for what came next. There weren't even enough iodine tablets when the nuclear disaster hit and a radioactive cloud came descended on Futaba. In the end, it was the Japanese prime minister who ordered the evacuation. But, just like now, we were left on our own, and it was a miracle that one of the sirens was still working because in a total power failure, we barely would've been able to warn all the people. After some anxious days, 1,300 people found shelter in a disused school house in Saitama, a prefecture north of Tokyo, where they arranged themselves in classrooms and gyms. The precarious first weeks, which were characterised by a lot of solidarity among the people, turned into months and then finally years of insecurity and uncertainty. No one knew how it would go on, and the authorities always came with but vague promises that they were taking care of things. But nothing has happened: the desperation has grown, some have committed suicide, others have remained in the school house in protest against the arbitrary allocation of housing. Freedom of choice has been taken away from the former inhabitants of Futaba. They want to force some people to return to the supposedly decontaminated areas in the town, but all the while nuclear waste is being deposited in the municipality; others are being denied financial assistance on the flimsiest of excuses. And the worst of all: no one has any real perspective any more in their lives. Some of us have been resettled in the capital of the Fukushima prefecture. But because they had worked in the nuclear power plant, they are regarded there not as victims but as profiteers. We have lost everything, and now they're even blaming us or simply letting us down. I am not giving up. I'm raising my voice, even globally with appeals to international institutions and governments. There's a reason for this: I feel responsible for my fellow citizens."

damage on a street in Futaba (Bild: www.cryptome.org)

 

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