8 Mar. 2017
NAMIE TOWN, Japan
Signs of life are returning nearly six years after panicked residents fled radiation spewed by the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, when it was struck by an earthquake and tsunami. Still, only several hundred of the original 21,500 residents plan to return in the first wave, estimates Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant who helped draw up a blueprint to rebuild the town. "As a person who used to sell seeds for a living, I believe now is a time to sow seeds" for rebuilding, said Sato, 71. "Harvesting is far away. But I hope I can manage to help bring about fruition." Just 4 km (2.5 miles) away from the wrecked plant, Namie is the closest area cleared for the return of residents since the disaster of March 11, 2011. But the town will never be the same, as radiation contamination has left a big area off limits. And it may never be inhabitable. More than half - 53 percent - of former residents have decided not to return, a government poll showed last September. They cited concerns over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which is being dismantled in an arduous, 40-year effort. REUTERS/Toru Hanai SEARCH "FUKUSHIMA RETURN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.