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Evacuee's suicide sad reminder how Fukushima continues to claim victims

By Kyung Lah, CNN
updated 2:01 PM EDT, Tue May 29, 2012
An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant on March 12, 2011.
An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant on March 12, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Evacuee from Fukushima commits suicide after brief visit to contaminated home
  • He was one of tens of thousands who were evacuated
  • After his wife reported him missing, he was found dead in his store's shed
  • "There are so many people (in my town) who have lost hope," his friend says

Tokyo (CNN) -- A 62-year-old evacuee from Fukushima Prefecture made a brief visit to his radiation-contaminated home, walked to his shuttered shop, and then hanged himself in a storage space.

The death is yet another sad reminder how the March 11, 2011, disaster in Japan continues to claim victims.

On that day, a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami which swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, knocking out power to cooling systems and leading to meltdowns in its three operating reactors.

The earthquake and tsunami left more than 15,000 dead. While no deaths have been directly attributed to the nuclear disaster, the resulting release of radioactivity forced residents of several towns near the plant to flee their homes, and a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) zone around the plant remains closed to the public.

The man, who was not named by police, was one of tens of thousands who were evacuated from the area.

He and his wife were briefly granted entry into the exclusion zone around the plant on Sunday, to visit their home and their small store, police said.

After the wife reported him missing, officers and volunteer firefighters in the town of Namie organized a search, police said.

The following day, firefighters found the man's body in his store's storage shed.

Naka Shimizu, a local government spokesman and a friend of the victim, told CNN that when he heard the reports that the man was missing, he feared the man had killed himself.

"There are so many people (in my town) who have lost hope. This affects their health," he said.

Shimizu, an evacuee himself, expressed frustration over the plight of the 70,000 evacuees of the nuclear disaster and the governmental paralysis in caring for the people of his town.

Shimizu pointed the finger at the national government, saying Tokyo's leaders just want to get the town to accept radiation-contaminated debris on an interim basis, without offering any long-term plan to manage all the evacuees.

The evacuees have yet to receive any sizable compensation or a timetable on when, or if, they'll ever be able to return to their homes, he said.

"The people of Namie are increasingly depressed about the future. We don't have a clear future or see any achievable targets," said Shimizu.

He said he knew of four or five people in Namie who had committed suicide and more than 100 who had died of illness during the evacuation.

Japanese media reported the man complained of insomnia from the stress of the evacuation and his inability to make a living.

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