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A 55-year-old Japanese man is sacrificing himself to save Fukushima’s abandoned and radioactive animals

14.05.2015  |  12:34
A 55-year-old Japanese man is sacrificing himself to save Fukushima’s abandoned and radioactive animals

The entire world was watching when the devastating Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster hit Fukushima, Japan in 2011.

After six nuclear reactors broke down due to an earthquake-triggered tsunami, 160,000 people were forced to evacuate and relocate to emergency shelters outside of the radioactive zone. Many, including the nuclear plant’s own employees, did not understand the severity of the accident and most believed they would be able to return home in a matter of months. However, four years later, the repopulation of Fukushima is still uncertain.

55-year-old Naoto Matsumura, a fifth-generation rice farmer from Fukushima, might be the only person who found a reason important enough to make him stay.

After struggling to find room in emergency shelters, Matsamura thought back to all the animals he’d left behind on his farm back home. A year later, against strict orders from the Japanese government, he made his way back to Fukushima in order to check up on his family’s dogs—fully aware of the risk this endeavour posed. When he got to the farm, Naoto witnessed something he was not ready for.

Naoto Matsumura, 55, is the only person still living in Fukushima’s 12.5-mile exclusion zone. He returned to take care of the animals that were left behind.

1_most radioactive person

Hundreds of abandoned animals—all of them left behind by people who escaped in a hurry—scattered across the town. The sight was unfathomable—starving dogs still tied to posts in backyards, piles of dying cattle, frail chickens trapped in rusted cages. These animals had not eaten or drank enough water in over a year, yet somehow many of them still survived. All remaining animals had been condemned by the government due to contamination, and there were orders for them to be slaughtered and buried. But Matsumura was adamant that “animals and people are equal.” He firmly believed the officials were making an immoral decision and argued that contaminated animals could be beneficial for conducting research on the effects of radioactivity. Since then, the 55-year-old has stayed true to his mission and has been looking after all left-behind animals.

Today, Matsumura takes care of over 50 cows, two ostriches, and feeds the cats, dogs, and hundreds of cattle that have now become feral. He often drives around looking for new strays to take in. He is the only person currently living in Fukushima.

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