Japan allows residents to return to town near Fukushima

People light candles at Naraha town in Fukushima on Sept. 4, 2015 to celebrate as the Japanese government lifts an evacuation order near the crippled nuclear plant, after a clean-up program lowered radiation levels in the area. Photo by Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

Residents returned to a town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Saturday, as Japanese government officials celebrated a lift on a four-and-a-half-year evacuation order, deeming the area safe after radiation levels had fallen.

More than 7,000 Nahara residents were forced to evacuate in March 2011, following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that resulted in the meltdown of the power plant.

"I have opened these storm windows of this corridor for the first time since the disaster," an elderly resident told national broadcaster NHK, upon returning and beginning to clean her home.

"I am happy. I tell everyone I see now hurry up and return home," she said.

Roughly 100 residents have returned to Nahara since a trial period began in April, the Associated Press reported.

Nahara, located 12 miles from the nuclear plant, is the third municipality to lift such an order. Nine municipalities and a total of approximately 70,000 residents were affected by the catastrophic event, according to NHK.

At the moment, it is unclear exactly how many residents will return.

The town is still without a fully functioning hospital, although a medical clinic is expected to open in October, and while a supermarket began free grocery deliveries in July, there will not be a shopping center in Nahara until 2016, according to the Guardian.

PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien visited the area crippled by the nuclear disaster in 2014.

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