Japanese Nuclear Ghost Town by Google Maps

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Visitors to Google Maps can now roam virtually through the overgrown streets of an abandoned town where time has stood still since a tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant two years ago.

The Internet giant’s mapping site is offering views of the deserted streets of Namie, half of which sits within the 20-kilometre (12-mile) no-go zone around the nuclear plant, wrecked when the 2011 tsunami crashed into Japan. With cooling systems knocked out by the wall of water, three reactors melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air, soil and sea and forcing Namie’s entire population of 21,000 to flee.

The entrance ban will be lifted for a small part of the town from Monday next week, allowing residents to visit for a short time, but the vast majority remains highly contaminated and is expected to be uninhabitable for years.

“The world is moving on to the future after the disaster… but time has stopped in the town of Namie,” said mayorTamotsu Baba, writing on a blog for Google Japan Thursday.

“I hope these street views will show the people of future generations what the great earthquake and nuclear disaster brought,” he said.

“We need many years and many people’s cooperation to rise again from the nuclear crisis. We will never give up on getting back our hometown,” he said. (via)

Namie-machi is a small city in Fukushima Prefecture sitting along the coast of the Pacific. We are blessed with both ocean and mountains, and known as a place where you can experience both the beauty of the sea and the forests. Tragically, however, since the nuclear accident caused by theGreat East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, all of Namie-machi’s 21,000 townspeople have had to flee their homes.

Two years have passed since the disaster, but people still aren’t allowed to enter Namie-machi. Many of the displaced townspeople have asked to see the current state of their city, and there are surely many people around the world who want a better sense of how the nuclear incident affected surrounding communities.

Working with Google, we were able to drive Street View cars through Namie-machi to capture panoramic images of the abandoned city exactly as it stands today. Starting today, this Street View imagery is available on Google Maps and the Memories for the Future site, so anyone from Namie or around the world can view it. (via Google)