Villagers of Kawauchi-mura, located between 20 km and 30 km from the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant and told by the national government to just stay indoors, defied the instruction and began to collectively organize their own “complete village evacuation,” heading for Koriyama City outside the 30 km-radius zone from the Fukushima 1 reactors. According to Vice Village Mayor Mitsugu Igari, who led the first contingent of evacuees, arriving at Koriyama’s “Big Palette Fukushima” shelter in the afternoon of the 16th, the decision to evacuate was made because of the rising fear about the nuclear plant among the villagers.
Vice Village Mayor Igari said, “The Fukushima 1 situation is getting worse every minute. It’s been already 24 hours since we were told to stay indoors. You can’t stay indoors for ever — you need to eat, and the elderly need care. I just made my own judgment that people can’t live with fear any longer.”
According to the vice village mayor, about 1,200 of the total 3,000 village population, and about 4,000 nuclear refugees from Tomioka-machi, which is closer to the nuclear plant, were still in the village as of the morning of decision. The decision to evacuate the whole village was made by a Kawauchi-Tomioka joint disaster response headquarters. 14 buses and other vehicles are being mobilized to transport people from Kawauchi to Koriyama. Village Mayor Yuko Endo will leave on the last bus.
Evacuated from his home in Tegooka, Kawauchi, located on the border with Iwaki City, Toshio Sudou, 44 years old, travelled by car, with his mother (77 years old) and sister (53) and his 48-year-old brother’s family and managed to get to the “Big Palette” shelter.
Around 9:30 AM on the 16th, the village alert system blared an announcement: “Everyone, you must evacuate now,” instructing car owners to leave by their own cars and those without personal transportation to organize contingents and get on buses to Koriyama. “Not knowing anything, I just followed the announcement and evacuated. What now?” asked Mr. Sudou.
According to the Fukushima Prefecture government, still 141,000 residents and refugees in shelters are left in the 20-30 km zone. Besides Kawauchi-mura, residents of Iitate-mura and Minami Souma City are also seeking to evacuate from that zone.