On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake — the worst to ever hit Japan — rocked the country for almost six minutes. The quake was so strong that it permanently moved Japan’s main island, Honshu, more than two meters to the east. The impact also raised huge waves up to 40 meters high. As people were still reeling from the aftershocks, these waves began crashing into the country. More than 20,000 people died or went missing in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, while hundreds of thousands more lost their homes. At the same time, the Fukushima plant was quickly becoming a disaster of its own; one that would shock the country as much as the earthquake itself. Determined to see the damage from the disaster, many photographers risked their lives and had to obtain special permits to enter the exclusion zone.
1. It’s been six years since the Fukushima Nuclear disaster.
The nuclear disaster led to the imposition of a 20 mile evacuation zone, similar to that seen in Chernobyl, more than 25 years earlier. The 2011 earthquake rocked Japan, before a deadly tsunami swept ashore, washing away any boats, cars, homes and people unfortunate enough to be in its path. According to initial reports, more than 19,000 perished in that unforgiving day.
2. Throughout the years, many photographers have ignored the need for a special permit and crept in to the exclusion zone overnight.
The powerful tsunami rocked the town of Fukushima and its nuclear power plant was overcome by floodwater before going into meltdown. Due too the disaster, a 12-mile ‘no go zone’ was put in place around the stricken facility; resulting in the evacuation of more than 80,000 people.
3. Many of the towns within the blast radius lay untouched, making it appear as if we are travelling back in time.
Wearing a gas mask, photographer Keow Wee Loong, 27, snuck into the forbidden “exclusion zone” to snap photos of eerie untouched cities. As he roamed around the abandoned stores, he came across calendars on walls which dated back to March 2011, old food still on the shelves and half-finished loads of laundry.
4. The residents left so quickly, they didn’t have time to pack or take anything valuable with them.
“Fukushima is like an untouched ghost town. This was one of the creepiest things I have ever seen,” Loong said.
Loong visited four cities — Tomioka, Okuma, Namie and Futaba — which were evacuated suddenly after the earthquake and tsunami struck the east coast of Japan in 2011.
5. These pictures were taken from the cities of Okuma, Futaba and Namie.
Some 22,000 former residents of Namie are being allowed back to their homes, but can only go once a month and cannot stay overnight. The atmosphere is still shrouded by a ‘burning sensation’ as well as a ‘thick chemical smell in the air’.
6. After the tsunami struck the east coast of Japan in 2011, a 50-foot wave slammed into the Fukushima power plant, triggering a radioactive leak.
Loong visited the highly toxic “red zone” at night to avoid being caught by police, he said.
The radiation level is still very high. Not many people have seen this town in the last six years. It is like it vanished.