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Google Images Fukushima Nuclear Ghost Town With Street View

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Mar 30, 2013 08:42 AM EDT
Fukushima
Police officers wearing protective suits and masks search for missing people of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is background along the coast side in Namie town, inside the no-go zone around the plant, Fukushima Prefecture.
(Photo : KYODO / REUTERS)

Google Street View has sent a car through the Japanese town of Namie, giving the world a rare look into a place abandoned ever since the largest earthquake in Japan's history unleashed a monster tsunami that killed thousands and crippled the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, making a ghost town out of the coastal hamlet.

Two years after Japan's northeastern coast was ravaged by the disaster, many of the 340,000 displaced residents are still unable to return to their homes.

The 21,000 people forced from Namie are no exception.

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Clicking through images of Namie's streets reveals a town ravaged and abandoned. The tsunami decimated coastal areas in the town, leaving only the shells of houses, debris amid lonely concrete foundations. Driving through one part of town reveals ships carried out of the sea, a testament of the power of the wave.

Many of the people who were forced to evacuate have only been able to return to Namei for minutes at a time as the city rests within the nuclear exclusion zone around the beleaguered Fukushima nuclear campus.

Some people may never want to return, while others are nostalgic for the place they once called home. The new images from Google are welcome by some, including Koto Naganuma, who lost her Namie home in the tsunami.

"I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited I can take a look at those places that are so dear to me," said Naganuma in an Associated Press report. "It would be hard, too. No one is going to be there."

The mayor of Namei, Tamotsu Baba, said it is painful that a town that was passed from generation to generation will not be taken by the children.

"We want this Street View imagery to become a permanent record of what happened to Namie-machi in the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster," he said.

The 9-magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011 was the most powerful earthquake in Japan's long and very quaky history. The power of the quake, which had an epicenter 43 miles out at sea, unleashed a massive tsunami that reportedly reached heights of 133 feet in some locations and traveled as far as six miles inland. The earthquake was so powerful it shifted the Earth on its axis by as much as 10 inches. The event killed nearly 19,000 and caused more than 340,000 people to become displaced. 

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