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Google Street View releases devastated Fukushima town tour

A trifecta of troubles: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear cockup

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Pix Google has released Street View images of the unfortunate town of Namie-machi, Japan, which was devastated by the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and the tsunami it caused, then rendered uninhabitable by the Fukushima Daichi nuclear cockup.

"Two years have passed since the disaster," the town's mayor Tamotsu Baba writes on the Google Maps blog, "but people still aren't allowed to enter Namie-machi."

All 21,000 residents of Namie-machi had to evacuate their homes, and they're understandably anxious about the state of their property. "Many of the displaced townspeople have asked to see the current state of their city," Baba says, "and there are surely many people around the world who want a better sense of how the nuclear incident affected surrounding communities."

Enter Google, which worked with Baba to drive the company's Street View cars through Namie-machi and capture images of how it looks today. It's not pretty. The tsunami wrecked much of the once-thriving coastal city, and Fukushima Daichi's radiation releases turned it into a ghost town.

But don't take our word for it. Take a Street View drive through Namie-machi and its environs, and see for yourself. Here are a few sample images – our thanks to The Atlantic for pointing us to these particular drive-bys (click each to enlarge):

While the Fukushima Daichi meltdown wasn't the cause of Namie-machi's ruination, it has prevented the evacuated townspeople from recovering or repairing their property to any appreciable extent. "With the lingering nuclear hazard," Baba says, "we have only been able to do cursory work for two whole years."

Baba writes as a politician and civic booster, extolling his town's natural beauty and location – but he also appears to be a man who genuinely grieves for his town. "Ever since the March disaster, the rest of the world has been moving forward, and many places in Japan have started recovering," he writes. "But in Namie-machi time stands still."

Despite the trifecta of troubles – earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear systems failure – Baba remains resolute. "It may take many years and many people's help," he says, "but we will never give up taking back our hometown." ®

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