TMCnet Feature
March 06, 2013

Google Maps Japan Town's Nuclear Exclusion Zone

By David Delony, Contributing Writer

Google (News - Alert) has started mapping the nuclear exclusion zone in Japan, two years after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami – and radiation leaks from a damaged nuclear reactor – devastated the country.



“There's nothing that compares to actually coming in and seeing [the damage] for yourself," Kei Kawai, a Google product manager, told ABC News. "But we can at least show what these places are like, to the people who [evacuated] the city, to the world."

Google is driving its camera cars around the town of Namie, Japan, where the damage from the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake in 2011 still lingers. When finally mapped, users will be able to see the town in Google Maps Street View.

Google has mapped 27,000 miles so far of regions hit by the earthquake, which caused a tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing a meltdown and spreading radiation across the region.

The idea to map the town came from the residents themselves.

"We still have to wear hazmat suits and get government approval, just to go home," said Tamotsu Baba, the neighbor of Namie. "How can we even begin to rebuild under circumstances such as that."

One of the aims of the project is to keep the residents of the town a connection to each other, even as they’re scattered following their evacuation. The town has also produced a phone directory of residents with new addresses and phone numbers elsewhere in Japan.

It’s expected to take at least 10 years before Namie residents can return home and rebuild.

"It's absolutely frustrating," Baba said. "That 'smell' of life, the smell of the kitchen, the smell of gasoline in the streets, all of that is gone now. There is just silence."

Google is also creating a site, “Memories of the Future,” which allows users to tour some of the buildings damaged by the earthquake.




Edited by Braden Becker
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