Disasters are not over when they are no longer in the headlines. The Great Japan Earthquake 2011 is a prime example of that fact. This March, Japan marked the fourth anniversary of the March 11, 2011 and disaster officials concede that recovery throughout the region is lagging.
In the areas evacuated around the failed Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, radiation levels remain as much as 10 times above normal in areas surrounding the plant, and scores of towns and villages remain off-limits despite a massive cleanup effort.
Nearly a quarter-million Japanese still live in temporary or interim housing. Hundreds of square miles of forests, farmland and townships remain uninhabitable because of radiation. Endless rows of thick vinyl bags filled with contaminated soil litter the countryside — but represent just a fraction of the land that must be scraped up and hauled away before residents can return.
At the stricken power plant, radiation is no longer escaping into the air, but workers are still battling to contain leaks of contaminated water. The plant won’t be fully decommissioned for at least three decades.
Mercifully, no one has been killed by the radiation, and no illnesses have been traced to the leaks, so far. Even in areas declared safe, many evacuees are reluctant to return. They harbor a deep mistrust of officials after conflicting or hesitant evacuation orders early in the crisis, radiation readings that shift with wind and rain, and disagreements over the risks of long-term, low-level exposure.
Imagine if that was your town or city, region or state…how long would it take to “get back to normal?” Would normal ever come?