Google Street View captures Fukushima ghost town

28 Mar 2013

A Google Street View image of the abandoned city of Namie-machi, Japa, in Fukushima Prefecture

Google Street View has captured panoramic images of the abandoned city of Namie-machi, Japan, whose 21,000 residents had to flee after the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear accident in March 2011.

The disaster caused equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Residents of Namie-machi were evacuated, and no one has been allowed back to the small city in Fukushima Prefecture.

“Two years have passed since the disaster, but people still aren’t allowed to enter Namie-machi,” Google’s Official Blog quotes Mayor of Namie-machi Tamotsu Baba as having said.

“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.”

Now, Street View imagery of Namie-machi is available on Google Maps and the Memories for the Future site, so anyone anywhere can view images that include wreckage and collapsed buildings. Virtually ‘driving’ through Namie-machi on Street View reveals what looks like a town that could be found anywhere in the world – shops, eateries and hair salons line the streets, for example – but the absence of life among signs of destruction is eerie.

“Ever since the March disaster, the rest of the world has been moving forward, and many places in Japan have started recovering. But in Namie-machi time stands still,” Baba said.

“With the lingering nuclear hazard, we have only been able to do cursory work for two whole years. We would greatly appreciate it if you viewed this Street View imagery to understand the current state of Namie-machi and the tremendous gravity of the situation.”

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic