A daredevil urban explorer shares haunting images of the four Japanese towns that have been abandoned since the nuclear meltdown seven years ago. He sneaked into the highly irradiated region to get the inside view of the “exclusion zone.”
Wearing a gas mask but no other protective clothing, explorer and photographer Keow Wee Loong visited four of the evacuated towns with friends Sherena Ng and Koji Hori.
It was a very busy day as people went about doing their usual thing on March 11, 2011, when the tragedy struck. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan at 2:46 p.m., causing considerable damage, as well as the large tsunami that resulted in even bigger destruction. When the quake hit the city of Fukushima, 11 reactors were shut down automatically and a nuclear emergency was declared.
The towns of Tomioka, Okuma, Namie, and Futaba have become silent “ghost cities.” People fled as soon as the evacuation order was issued; being afraid of getting contaminated, no one has revisited the towns since then.
Loong arrived in the city that seemed frozen in time—the calendars remain on the same date, newspapers and magazines remain unsold, and cleanly washed clothes are half removed from the driers.
During this deadly adventure, they felt a burning sensation in their eyes and smelled the stench of chemicals in the air.
“The radiation level in the red zone could go as high as 4.8mSv to 6.5 mSv according to the reading on the electronic signboard on the road,” Loong told Barcroft TV.
Among the locations Loong had visited was a mall that has been left the way it was when 150,000 people were forced to leave after the disaster. The merchandise inside the shops were all dated back to 2011.
“When I walked into the mall I felt an eerie silence, like time had frozen. The mall was completely empty with no people in it but all the merchandise in place and I could explore anywhere I wanted,” he said.