Google Street View Shows Japan Nuclear Zone for 'Memories for Future' Project

Image: Google Street View Shows Japan Nuclear Zone for 'Memories for Future' Project March 2013 photo of a Google camera-equipped vehicle as it moves through Namie town in Japan, a nuclear no-go zone where former residents have been unable to live since they fled from radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant two years ago.

Thursday, 28 Mar 2013 11:47 AM

By Megan Anderle

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Two years after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake slammed the North East coast of Japan and triggered a 23-foot tsunami that caused a nuclear meltdown and left more than 19,000 dead or missing, Google has released thousands of satellite images via Street View of the region.

The search giant has collected thousands of panoramic, live shots in the most devastated areas in and around Fukushima Prefecture, where one of the world's worst nuclear disasters occurred, The Next Web reported.

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"Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations," Google said on the website.

A series of before and after photos is particularly telling, an interactive history book that allows users to click around and see different 360-degree photos.

Suburban towns, such as Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, once crowded with two and three-story homes where parents raised families and children grew up have been reduced to rubble. The downtown area of Onagawa, has become one or two buildings among wreckage. Greenery in Shinchi, in the Fukushima Prefecture, has been ravaged by tidal waves that turned trees and green grass into a beach.

The raw imagery will depict the depressed areas as part of a larger compilation, for a Google project that archives photographs and videos before and after the disaster. The project, a website in Japanese only, "Mirai e no kioku," which translates to "Memories for the Future," will allow residents to rediscover lost memories of their homes and towns.

Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie-machi in the Fukushima Prefecture, told The Next Web that he hopes that the Street View imagery will become a permanent record of what happened to the small city during the disaster and also successfully communicate the “tremendous gravity of the situation.”

The immense earthquake, which was the largest in Japan's history, and accompanying tsunami on March 11, 2011, has kept more than 300,000 people displaced to this day. About half of those displaced were evacuees from areas near the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant and felt the brunt of the disaster and will likely never be able to return to their homes.

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The government has vowed faster action to clean up radiation from meltdowns of its reactors and rebuild lost communities but has yet to devise a post-disaster energy strategy, which is a central issue for the nation's struggling economy, according to the Associated Press.

Google Street View compiles aerial and satellite shots from areas across the globe, allowing users to search a location and see street-view shots of an area.

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