Photo/IllutrationDocuments in plastic bags lie near an entrance to Tsushima junior high school. The bulletin board in the background at left contains messages left behind by family members seeking contact with loved ones. (Shigetaka Kodama)

NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture--Six years after the nuclear accident, a bulletin board close to the entrance of Tsushima junior high school is still covered with messages left by evacuees asking that family members contact them.

The quaint hamlet of Tsushima was overwhelmed on March 12, 2011, as residents fled from areas closer to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant where a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor building led to the spewing of radioactive materials.

The chaos from that period remains in parts of Tsushima, which has been declared a difficult-to-return zone for residents because of the continuing high levels of radiation.

A reporter visited Tsushima on March 12 with the permission of the Namie town government.

At its closest, Namie is only about eight kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The Tsushima area is about 30 km away.

Before the nuclear accident, Tsushima had about 1,400 residents living in 450 households. But once the hydrogen explosion rocked the plant, about 8,000 evacuees converged on the hamlet.

Various schools such as Tsushima junior high school became temporary gathering points for the evacuees.

The gymnasium of the local senior high school is now littered with blankets and empty bottles, mixed in with the dirt and animal droppings that have accumulated over the years.

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