Evacuation order lifted for part of town hosting Fukushima plant

An evacuation order has been lifted for a part of areas designated as "no-entry zones" in Futaba Town that hosts the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Futaba is the only municipality in Fukushima Prefecture that remains fully evacuated following the 2011 nuclear accident. "No-entry zones" make up 95 percent of it.

Residents and officials gathered at a venue in front of JR Futaba Station on Monday night -- hours before the order was lifted at midnight. They took part in an event celebrating the move.

About 2,000 candles were lit in memory of victims of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear accident, and to wish for the reconstruction of local communities.

The moment the order was lifted at 0:00 a.m., a resident representing the group opened a door which had been prepared for the event and said, "I'm home." The other participants replied, "Welcome back!"

Fukuda Kazuharu, a resident who organized the event, evacuated to Iwaki City south of Futaba after the disaster and has been there ever since.

Fukuda said that the lifting is the first visible step forward for the town. He said he wants to revitalize Futaba, not for the sake of the town but rather for himself.

Town Mayor Izawa Shiro said that many residents may not return, but he believes the number of returnees will increase day by day. He said that Futaba will become a unique municipality as there are things that only it is capable of.