Deserted Fukushima town to remove pro-nuclear signs

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese town that was evacuated after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has decided to remove street signs trumpeting the benefits of atomic power, an official said Tuesday.

Deserted Futaba town, which plays host to the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, is set to earmark cash to remove huge signboards erected in 1988 and 1991, a town official told AFP.

"Nuclear power: the energy for a bright future," says one sign written in the style of a haiku poem at the entrance to the town. "Nuclear power: for development of our homeland, a prosperous future," reads the other.

Futaba's 6,300 residents were ordered to flee their homes in the days after reactors began melting down at Fukushima when an enormous tsunami swamped their cooling systems.

They are still unable to return because of fears over elevated levels of radiation that leaked from the plant, and many remain in poorly-constructed temporary homes.

"We've decided to remove them because they have become decrepit and are risky for people who make temporary returns to their houses," the Futaba official told AFP, adding the town was planning to set aside 4.1 million yen (S$46,600) for the work.

Almost 19,000 people lost their lives when the tsunami of March 11, 2011 swept ashore.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed and tens of thousands of people were made homeless.

The nuclear accident at Fukushima is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone, although 90,000 people remain displaced because of the no-go zone around the plant.

Scientists warn that it may be many years until it is safe to return and say that some areas may have to be abandoned forever.

Campaign groups say unemployment is high and levels of depression and other illness are far above normal in displaced communities.