Fukushima lags in Japan tsunami recovery: official

Recovery in nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima is lagging behind other parts of Japan that suffered during the tsunami, an official said Tuesday, adding mental health provision there was insufficient.

"What I'm concerned about most is that there is a disparity in the pace of reconstruction and in support" among disaster-hit areas, Hiroshi Suzuki, head of the reconstruction advisory panel for Fukushima prefecture, told reporters.

"During the first year-and-a-half since the disaster, many experts came to the disaster-hit areas, but most of them passed by Fukushima to visit either Miyagi or Iwate," said Suzuki, professor emeritus of engineering at Fukushima University.

Three prefectures in northern Japan -- Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi -- were the worst hit by the tsunami in March 2011 that killed thousands of people and triggered nuclear meltdowns in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant.

But Suzuki said the situation in Fukushima is "very complicated" because of the influence of the nuclear accident.

The government ordered tens of thousands of people to evacuate from a no-go zone around the crippled plant, freezing the surrounding towns at a moment in time.

While some people have moved back to communities near the plant, many more now live in other parts of Japan. There are fears it could be decades before some areas are habitable again.

"When I visited communities hit by the nuclear accident, I found there was not enough consideration of people's mental health needs," Suzuki said. "The situation is very severe.

"Although they have opportunities to get together, they can't speak to each other about damage inflicted on them.

"It's for us non-affected people to visit them and listen to what they have to say, but such efforts have been very much insufficient," he said.