Two years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Plant, Google has begun trying to bring the displaced residents of the Nuclear Exclusion Zone virtually back to their homes by starting the digital mapping of the area using its street view technology.
For the first time since the disaster, Google’s street view car, with a camera mounted on top, drove around Namie, which is still basically a ghost town. The car is attempting to capture a 360 view of the damaged town through its collapsed houses and cracked roads. The Google crew wasn’t wearing any protective gear, but they had to be out of the zone within three hours. Google product manager Kei Kawai is estimating that the mapping process will take several weeks and that the Namie street view map can be unveiled in a few months. They will also continue following the progress of the rebuilding process through the “Memories for the Future” site, that includes a digital archive project that will give a virtual tour of the devastated buildings.
The idea for mapping the desolated town came from the residents themselves. They want to show the world what the real situation is, that they still cannot return home two years after the disaster. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said that they still have not started the process of decontamination and that recovery is still a long way ahead for their town. He works out of a temporary town hall in Nihonmatsu, which is around 40 miles away from Namie. More than half of the residents have already relocated to other cities in the prefecture, and he’s finding it harder and harder to keep the community together. He even released a phone book with the contact details of the displaced residents, even those living outside the region, but he is still very much frustrated that it might take a decade for residents to be allowed to come home. “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,” he adds.
[ via ABC News ]