Nuclear Disaster Draws Attention To Rural Population

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Heavy equipment is used to clear debris from streets in the devastated town of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, Saturday, eight days after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. i

Heavy equipment is used to clear debris from streets in the devastated town of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, Saturday, eight days after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Kaname Muto/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Kaname Muto/AP
Heavy equipment is used to clear debris from streets in the devastated town of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, Saturday, eight days after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Heavy equipment is used to clear debris from streets in the devastated town of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, Saturday, eight days after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Kaname Muto/AP

Since a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan more than a week ago, international attention has been focused on the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The plant generates Tokyo's electricity, but it's nowhere near the capital — in fact, it's 150 miles away. And that means attention is also being focused on Japan's troubled rural communities.

In Kesennuma city on Japan's northeast coast, officials say local residents may not want to leave their damaged homes. But there's no money for emergency housing. Itsunori Onodera represents Kesennuma in the Japanese parliament. "This is part of the Japanese character," he says. "People want to stay in their hometowns instead of moving out."

And in Minamisoma city, which is near the stricken Fukushima reactor, local authorities are complaining that the central government has abandoned them after sealing off everything within a 20-mile radius of the plant. Thousands of Minamisoma residents were trapped in their communities until help came from Tokyo's Suginami ward, which mounted a rescue operation to evacuate some 1,600 people.

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