A life uprooted and stolen

Wherever they went, it wasn’t home

From Voices of Nuclear Victims, a project of Nos Voisins Lontains. 311

The callous dismissal of those who suffered, were sickened, or died as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, is pervasive among the nuclear lobby. But even as they dismiss those directly affected by the nuclear accident, they ignore victims of the earthquake and tsunami who, because of the high radiation levels caused by the subsequent nuclear disaster, could not be rescued. (See our earlier article about the short film Munen (Remorse) on this.) Shouldn’t their deaths also be ascribed to the nuclear accident, asks Fukushima evacuee, Mizue Kanno? Her poignant testimony forms the second installment of the short film series, Voices of Nuclear Victims. You can watch her 12-minute testimonial below and also a short interview feature with Ms. Kanno made by Friends of the Earth Japan. (Note: We are unable to find a source to verify Ms. Kanno’s claim that people who could not be rescued from the earthquake/tsunami destruction were left to starve to death. This does not necessarily mean it did not happen and it possibly refers to those who were also physically trapped or injured.)

Mizue Kanno tells her story:

There is one thing I would like to tell you: there are lives that could have been saved, if the nuclear accident had not occurred. The coastal areas of our municipality were severely affected by the tsunami, and that on March 11, there were people who were frantically searching: they were firefighters.

Because of the earthquake and tsunami, all electricity sources were cut off. As there was no emergency power supply, at nightfall, it was impossible to light up the sea. There were moans and groans. “Hold on, we’ll be back!” shouted the rescuers. “We’ll be back at dawn!” There were voices of victims responding.

In the pre-dawn darkness of March 12, firefighters and families took the path to the sea.

But it was forbidden to enter within a 5 km radius of the plant. This was because of the nuclear accident. Because radioactive elements were present. That’s why it was forbidden to enter. Family members who had taken refuge in our house returned to rescue the victims, but they were prevented from entering the coastal area.

Finally, when the ban on entry was lifted, among the dead, autopsies revealed many who had died of starvation. These are lives that could have been saved. If the nuclear accident had not happened, these people would have been rescued.

Haven’t they also died because of the nuclear accident?

If it hadn’t been for the nuclear accident, they would still be alive. They were waiting for rescue. They couldn’t survive on their own. And they starved to death. I think they should be counted among the dead due to the nuclear accident. But our government does not recognize that these are deaths due to the nuclear accident.

A mother fought the tsunami to save her child. Just when she thought she was giving up, she heard her child’s voice. She swam through the tsunami waters, rescued her child and crawled to higher ground. Finally rescued by helicopter, they were taken to a place where the thick radioactive plume was spreading. This location was within the 20 km exclusion zone, sorry, 10 km… Thus, until the rescuers arrived, they had to stay there.

The mother continues to have flashbacks even after being rescued, and she lost her psychological balance. However, she did everything in her power to protect her child. The child evacuated following the nuclear accident, became a target of harassment by pupils who said she was radioactive and contagious. The child did not want to go to school anymore and wanted to die. The mother was crying: “I risked my life to save her but I don’t know how to protect my child anymore”, she said in tears.

There were many such people. After the evacuation, I was in charge of listening to these people. All men and women kept suffering, but they were still trying to move forward in some way.

I think the people in my community are wonderful people. They have experienced many difficulties, but they care about others. They ask you if you are okay. I am grateful to have been able to live among such people.

I thought about what I could do now. I realized that the only thing I could do was to inform people about the nuclear accident. So that no one else has to go through the same ordeal.

Japan is a country of earthquakes. The nuclear power plants here are sure to repeat the same thing in the future. This is why we should shut down nuclear power plants.

This form of electricity generation is fundamentally wrong. A form of electricity generation that requires the complete evacuation of our community, shouldn’t exist. And it was not electricity we consumed ourselves. It was electricity sent to Tokyo.

To date, even if we limit ourselves to the number of people recognized by the state as evacuees, that’s over 20,000 people. The number of people who fled by their own means to protect children from the dangers of radiation exposure, not recognized by the state, is not included in the evacuee statistics. We too, the mandatory evacuees, from the moment the evacuation order is lifted, we are removed from the number of evacuees.

My home is in a red zone, the “difficult-to-return zone”. If you live there for a year, you will be exposed to more than 50 mSv. It was decided to carry out decontamination work and then to lift the evacuation order for part of the commune. It is scheduled for March 31, 2023. The order will be lifted where our house is located.

As for the decontamination work, it would only be for 20 meters around our houses, and it stops at the mountain. Decontamination work means just collecting dead leaves. So, when it rains on the mountains, radioactive materials flow towards the house.

Friends of the Earth Japan also made as short film with Mizue Kanno about her story.

The Fukushima plant is still emitting radioactive elements. Now, at Tsushima House, we don’t take care of the kiwi fruit plants at all, which bear more than 100 fruits each year. When we were living there, they had to be pruned to produce fruit. It is because of a radioactive substance which is dispersed every day. Radioactive cesium acts like potassium in fertilizer to make plants bloom. Potassium gives strength to trees. Thus, the tree blooms and bears much more fruit. 

Animals eat them. Animals are also exposed to radiation. I only go back occasionally, but I have had opportunities to see a wild boar running and falling while vomiting blood. There was also a dead boar on our property. 

Humans really do atrocious things. Animals have no idea that a nuclear accident has occurred, and continue to be exposed to radiation.

Can such a mode of electricity production be called environmentally friendly? I’d like young people to think about this. Is it clean energy only because it would emit little carbon dioxide? Our life has been uprooted and stolen. Living things are exposed to radiation. How can such a thing be clean energy?

Don’t forget the nuclear waste and the radioactive materials that continue to be released.

I’d like to ask you to think about this for a moment.

As long as the nuclear power plant is in operation, it continues to dump its liquid waste. The water used to cool nuclear power plants is discharged into the sea, rivers and lakes. Are you aware of the pollution this discharge causes? Don’t hesitate to inform yourself. You will then understand that it is not a safe and clean energy.

I don’t know if I can live another 20 years. But you will live for a long time. Please think about it. Think about whether nuclear energy is really a green and safe source of energy.

I learned from my own experience that nuclear energy does not have a bright future.

I wanted to tell you about this. 

Thank you for listening.

Since 2008, Mizue KANNO had been living in Tsushima, a village in Namie, the place of origin of her family-in-law. She was working as a certified caregiver at the Okuma Welfare Center where the nuclear power plant is located. In 2010, the renovation of the main house was half completed. Eight months later, following the nuclear accident, the family was evacuated by the authorities. After living in temporary accommodation in Fukushima Prefecture, the family moved to Hyôgo Prefecture in Western Japan in 2016. 

The Kanno family’s home is located 27 km as the crow flies from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The area is highly contaminated and is a “difficult-to-return” zone. Since then, part of Tsushima has been designated as a “special place for reconstruction and rehabilitation”. Decontamination work has been carried out there and the evacuation order will be lifted on March 31, 2023.

A longer profile of Mizue Kanno by Greenpeace Japan can be read here.

Headline photo of abandoned Japan home by eliminium/Wikimedia Commons

The opinions expressed in articles by outside contributors and published on the Beyond Nuclear International website, are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Beyond Nuclear. However, we try to offer a broad variety of viewpoints and perspectives as part of our mission “to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future”.

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