Fukushima, Sendai diocese prays for the victims of the nuclear disaster

10 years on, over 35 thousand people are still unable to return to their homes. The pandemic imposes low –key masses and commemorations. Fr. José Gonzáles: The disposal of radioactive waters is a huge problem.


Sendai (AsiaNews) - “The situation is difficult. Because of the radiation, more than 35 thousand people are still unable to return to their homes,” Father José Gonzáles tells AsiaNews describing the plight of the people of Fukushima 10 years after the earthquake that devastated the north-eastern coast of the country, causing the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

A missionary from Guadalupe, Fr. Gonzáles participated yesterday in the Mass celebrated in Sendai to remember the victims of the tragedy. The local diocese is responsible for the area hit by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Fr Shiro Komatsu, apostolic administrator of the diocese, officiated the celebration. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only some priests were able to join in the prayer.

Public and religious commemorations were held throughout the country: the message they bore was the lessons learned from 11 March 2011.

The tsunami caused by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake killed 18 thousand people and destroyed entire cities. The catastrophe forced half a million residents to flee their homes. The waters invaded the Fukushima nuclear plant, damaging some reactors, which on March 12 wet into meltdown. To avoid contact with deadly radiation, the authorities have created an "exclusion zone", evacuating 150,000 people.

Official estimates say it will take 40 years for the reconstruction and reclamation of the territory. So far the government has spent 30 trillion yen (231 billion euros). Over the next five years, allocations will drop to 1,600 billion yen (12.3 billion euros) and will focus on the Fukushima area.

“The issue of radioactive waste waters is a huge problem”, says Fr. Gonzáles, because no one knows where to store or dispose of it. Tepco, the company that operates the nuclear plant, used one million tons of water to cool the damaged atomic reactors. The Bishops' Conference of Japan have severly criticized the Suga government's proposal to dump it into the sea.