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Fukushima population falls as post-disaster scars linger

TOKYO -- The areas hit hardest by the March 2011 earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster have yet to recover, with Fukushima Prefecture's population shrinking 5.7% between 2010 and 2015, census results released Friday show.

     The drop was 2.7 percentage points sharper than in the previous five years. Neighboring Iwate Prefecture's population fell 3.8%, while Miyagi Prefecture's declined just 0.6% thanks to an influx spurred by the reconstruction process.

     The 2015 census, the first since the disaster, looked at where people actually reside rather than where they are registered as living. It found that people have not yet returned to areas evacuated after the meltdown or coastal regions devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

     Four towns completely within the evacuation zone had populations of zero: Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie. The nearby town of Naraha shrank 87.3%, the sharpest decline in the country. Nine municipalities remain at least partially covered by the zone. But a survey by Fukushima Prefecture shows a gradual recovery in immigration into the prefecture from a slump in fiscal 2011, in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

     Census data is used to determine how national tax revenue is allocated to local governments. Fukushima's population decline means that the prefecture will likely receive less money. The prefecture will "pay close attention to the individual assessments for each municipality" while ensuring that "no problems arise with the fiscal management of affected municipalities," Gov. Masao Uchibori said.

     The population of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, grew by 36,199. But towns damaged heavily by the tsunami did not fare so well. Onagawa and Minamisanriku shrank 37% and 29%.

(Nikkei)

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