Fukushima disaster: Japan reopens radiation-hit Naraha

media captionSome of those who have returned are trying to rekindle their old lives, as Michael Bristow reports

Japan is inviting residents to return to a town evacuated in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

Naraha is the first town to allow people to return permanently, following several years of decontamination work.

But many say they are not ready to come back, and only a fraction have returned for brief stays since a trial period began in April.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered a series of meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

After the disaster, all of Naraha's 7,400 residents moved out.

The town, about 20km (12 miles) south of the nuclear plant, is seen as a test case for the return of evacuated residents.

Some 100,000 people in the area are still unable to return to their homes.

Authorities in Naraha are issuing people with devices to check radiation levels and have been rebuilding local services, including shops and clinics.

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said the lifting of the evacuation order was "just a start".

"The clock that was stopped has now begun to tick," he said.

Former residents held a vigil to mark the rebirth of the town.

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But according to one survey, just 46% of residents say they hope to return.

One of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded struck off the coast of Japan in March 2011, triggering a huge tsunami. Almost 16,000 people died and more than 2,500 are still listed as missing.

None of the deaths however have been linked to the nuclear disaster, although there were a number of deaths in the subsequent evacuation.

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