Google Street View to map abandoned Fukushima town

The search giant said it is photographing the Namie's abandoned streets at the request of town officials

A small Japanese town, abandoned because of radiation concerns after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, is working with Google's map service to keep its memory alive.

Google said it will map the streets of Namie, in Fukushima Prefecture northeast Japan using Street View. The town is about 20 kilometers from the nuclear power plant that suffered meltdowns and released radioactive materials after a powerful earthquake and tsunami struck the region two years ago.

The Internet company said in a blog posting that the mapping will take several weeks, and the company aims to post the data online in a few months time.

"All of the residents of our town, 21,000 people, are currently evacuated all over Japan. Everyone wants to know the state of the disaster area, there are a lot of people that need to see how things are," said Tamotsu Baba, town mayor.

"I think there are many people all over the world that want to see images of the tragic conditions of the nuclear accident."

Baba said the town is happy to cooperate with Google in the filming project.

Namie was split between two evacuation zones established by the Japanese government after the Fukushima disaster. It is partly in the "security zone" where access is limited and partly in the "planned evacuation zone," where residents were told to leave within a month's time.

Google said its staff is following recommended national and local guidelines for safety during filming. The company posted about the project on its Japanese blog, including a short video.

"We hope that this project will also help protect against the fading of memories of the disaster, as we approach the two-year mark from when it occurred," wrote project manager Keiichi Kawai.

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