On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake ever to have hit Japan and, in fact, was so powerful that it moved the main island of Japan 8 feet east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 4 and 10 inches. The quake also triggered a tsunami with waves over 130 feet that hit the Japanese coastline. One of the areas hit by the tsunami was Fukushima, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which, as a result of the tsunami, triggered level 7 meltdowns in three of the reactors. The tsunami flooded the rooms housing the generators powering the pumps that kept water circulating around the reactors.The Japanese government estimates the total amount of radioactivity released into the atmosphere was approximately one-tenth as much as was released during the Chernobyl disaster. In addition, significant amounts of radioactive material was released into ground and ocean waters, forcing a ban on food grown in the area.
Five months after the disaster, photographer Kosuke Okahara visited Fukushima to photograph the aftermath. When he arrived, he grabbed his dosimeter, a device used to measure radiation levels, and looked at his watch to see how much time he could spend at the there before risking too much exposure to the radiation. According to the New York Times, on Sept. 6, at the Visa pour l’Image photojournalism festival in France, Getty Images awarded him $20,000 to produce photographs in the area surrounding the plants and document the fallout and the lives of those affected by it. “I’m collecting fragments,” Okahara says, “There was a life before, right before the accident. I was surprised by the sudden death of the town.” There’s a haunting emptiness to many of Okahara’s photographs, yet they are, at the same tine, somehow beautiful.
[via The Lens]