NEWS

Fukushima Pictures Show Nature Reclaiming The Exclusion Zone And Classrooms Covered In Dust

07/10/2015 18:17 | Updated 02 February 2016

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 has turned 12-mile exclusion zone around the nuclear plant into an overgrown wilderness, heavily contaminated with radiation. Abandoned vehicles are besieged by plant life as nature reclaims its territory. Yet the levels of radioactivity remain dangerously high.

These pictures, taken four years after the accident, show the encroaching forest around the plant, as well as classrooms and libraries in the surrounding towns engulfed in dust and cobwebs. More than 160,000 people were evacuated from their homes after the disaster, with most still unable to return due to contamination. Polish professional photographer Arkadiusz Podniesinski visited the site last month to “present the actual state of the exclusion zone,” capturing images from the ghost towns of Futaba, Namie and Tomioka.

Four of the reactors at the plant were crippled by the 50-foot tsunami that struck following the huge earthquake. Three of the reactors suffered core meltdowns. The evacuation was swift, forcing residents to leave everything behind. More than 20,000 workers have been employed to clean up the towns, scrubbing the walls and floors of every building. Outside, the contaminated topsoil is being removed from the exclusion zone in the hope of one-day allowing residents to return home.

When I entered the exclusion zone, the first thing I noticed was the huge scale of decontamination work,” said Podniesinski. “This was a way of drawing my own conclusions without being influenced by any media sensation, government propaganda, or nuclear lobbyists who are trying to play down the effects of the disaster.” Of the displaced residents, Podniesinski said: “They do not believe the government's assurances that in 30 years from now the sacks containing radioactive waste will be gone. They are worried that the radioactive waste will be there forever.”

  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    An aerial photograph of vehicles overrun by plant life abandoned before the March 11 2011 disaster.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    There are currently approximately 360 cattle owned by Masami Yoshizawa who returned to his farm after the disaster. The cracks in the earth were caused by the earthquake.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    An aerial photograph taken by a drone of dump sites with sacks of contaminated radioactive soil. To save space they are stacked in layers, one on top of the other.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Four years on from the nuclear accident which led to 160,000 people being evacuated from their homes, 120,000 have still not been able to return and some areas are still considered to be too dangerous to enter.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A stack of radioactive contaminated televisions
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Dump sites with sacks of contaminated radioactive soil are usually located on arable land. To save space they are stacked in layers, one on top of the other.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A book shop with hundreds of books left behind on the floor
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    One of the classrooms on the first floor in a school. There is still a mark below the blackboard showing the level of the tsunami wave. On the blackboard in the classroom are words written by former residents, schoolchildren and workers in an attempt to keep up the morale of all of the victims, including "We can do it, Fukushima!"
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    An aerial photograph of vehicles overrun by plant life abandoned before the March 11 2011 disaster.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Cars overrun by plant life.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Not long after the accident cows started to get mysterious white spots on their skin. A farm owner suspects that this is due to the cows eating contaminated grass. He is trying to publicise the case, he is in contact with the media, and protests in front of the Japanese parliament, even taking one of his cows. Unfortunately, apart from financial support and regular testing of the cows’ blood, there is no one who is willing to finance more extensive tests.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    An aisle of a supermarket with products left on the floor. Since the disaster nature has been at work and cobwebs now hang between the shelves.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Computer screens left unattended
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A restaurant table with crockery left behind by guests
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Workers scrub a house to allow residents to move back to their homes
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Kouichi Nozawa who lives with his wife Youko in a room in temporary housing
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Supermarket checkouts and products strewn over the floor
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A school gymnasium with holes in the floor
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Abandoned bikes left behind after the Fukushima nuclear disaster
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A gaming saloon once bustling with people now eerily empty
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A piano and musical instruments on the floor after residents were evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear disaster
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Photographer Arkadiusz Podniesinski wearing his protective radiation clothing
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    A motorbike left next to a lamppost in 2011. Since the disaster weeds have grown over much of the bike's wheel.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Dump sites with sacks of contaminated soil are usually located on arable land. To save space they are stacked in layers, one on top of the other.
  • Arkadiusz Podniesinski/REX Shutterstock
    Go karts lined up and ready to race
Fukushima Aftermath

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