VIDEO: Tens of thousands remain evacuated nearly a year after Fukushima nuclear disaster
In the days after the Fukushima Daiichi plant was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami, causing its reactors and spent fuel rods to overheat, catch fire, cause explosions and leak radiation, thousands of Japanese were evacuated from their homes. Now, more than a year later, they're still wondering when they'll get to go home.
It's been nearly a year since the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan that led to the worst nuclear catastrophe in the world since the Cheynobyl disaster nearly 25 years ago.
In the days after the Fukushima Daiichi plant endured a partial meltdown and several explosions, the 11,000 residents of Ōkuma were evacuated because of the radiation released from the plant. They remain evacuated and have been let in only briefly to collect belongings that they weren't able to get out initially.
"It's as if I have depression. I can't sleep, I can't eat. I lost eight kilograms," one resident said, as she checked on her home and picked up things she wanted to take with her.
Other residents use the few minutes they have in their hometown to check on loved ones who've already passed on, by visiting the cemetery.
Before this most recent case, Ōkuma residents hadn't been let into the cemetery. So on this trip, many residents made repairs and tidied up the grave sites.
Some 80,000 people have been evacuated from the towns and countryside of Fukushima province. They're living in apartments, temporary shelters and other situations hastily constructed by the government. Many are unemployed, their jobs left behind in the evacuation zone.
"If it's a normal disaster, you recover from it and go forward a bit every day," one unemployed evacuee said. "But this time you don't. All that's left is uncertainty. I just don't know when I can go back."
Government officials aren't offering much hope. They say it may take 40 years to fully decommission the Daiichi plant — and an area just a little smaller than Rhode Island may need to be decontaminated.