Eight years after nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant forced evacuation of nearby communities, Japanese authorities on Wednesday April 10th gave the first clearance for residents to return to a neighbourhood of one of the towns that hosted the stricken plant.
The Fukushima power plant suffered severe damage that lead to radiation leaks after being badly affected by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11th, 2011.
Half the residents of the ailing town of Okuma have decided against returning to the town, according to a survey conducted by Japanese authorities.
Only 3.5% of them had lived in the neighbourhood where people have been allowed to return but Okuma's mayor insisted it was just the start.
"This is a major milestone for the town," Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said in a written statement. "But this is not the goal but a start toward the lifting of the evacuation order for the entire town."
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed Tokyo Electric Power's (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, which straddles the municipalities of Okuma and Futaba on the Pacific coast.
More than 160,000 people were evacuated as a result of the world's worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century. Since then, the restricted area has gradually shrunk, leaving just 339 square km (131 square miles) still deemed too unsafe to inhabit.