Photo/IllutrationThe former off-site emergency center for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is dismantled in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 25. (Shigetaka Kodama)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Dismantling work started on a former emergency response center here that failed miserably in its job to protect residents when the disaster unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

The Environment Ministry and the Fukushima prefectural government allowed media representatives to watch on Nov. 25 as heavy machinery tore apart the two-story reinforced concrete building located in central Okuma, about 5 kilometers southwest of the crippled nuclear plant.

Around 9:45 a.m., 20-centimeter-thick walls were smashed around window frames on the second floor. About 40 minutes later, the inside of the second floor was visible.

The site should be cleared by March next year.

The government set up the on-site disaster management headquarters here after the tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake slammed into the nuclear plant on March 11, 2011, leading to a triple meltdown.

About 150 officials and experts gathered at the headquarters to collect information and devise measures to protect residents from radiation.

However, on March 15, when radiation levels increased inside the building, they evacuated “the front-line base” and headed to a safer location.

Around 90 patients remained at Futaba Hospital, located about 1 km away.

The evacuation of the patients was filled with delays and confusion. About 50 of those patients died at the hospital, during their often prolonged travel from the hospital or in evacuation centers.

An administrative inspection conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications two years before the nuclear disaster found that emergency center building lack airtightness against radiation.

However, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry failed to take adequate measures to correct the problem.

The central government plans to lift the evacuation order for the area surrounding the center in spring 2022 as a specified reconstruction and revitalization area. The Okuma town government plans to use the site as a residential area.