By Crystal Chung @Crystal Chung

A DAREDEVIL urban explorer has shared haunting images of the abandoned Fukushima earthquake ‘exclusion zone’ after sneaking in to the highly irradiated region

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Videographer / director: Keow Wee Loong
Producer: Crystal Chung, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Jack Stevens

 

The entire city of Fukushima was evacuated suddenly after an earthquake struck and a tsunami destroyed a power plant leading to a radiation leak

Wearing a gas mask but no other protective clothing, explorer and photographer Keow Wee Loong, 27, visited four of the evacuated towns in Fukushima - Tomioka, Okuma, Namie and Futaba - in June this year with friends friends Sherena Ng and Koji Hori.

Lying completely untouched since March 2011, the city of Fukushima was evacuated suddenly after the east coast of Japan was devastated by a massive earthquake followed by a huge tsunami.

A video rental store in the town of Futaba is left abandoned with discount signs and a vending machine left untouched

Keow’s images give an eerie insight into the panic that followed the disaster and show a city stuck in time as calendars remain on the same date, families' clean washing is half-removed from driers and newspapers forever remain unsold.

Malaysian-born Loong said: “The residents of these three towns in the red exclusion zone left so quickly they didn’t even pack or take anything valuable with them.

The urban explorers look through abandoned houses left abandoned

"If you visit any boutique or shopping mall in these towns, you will see the merchandise exactly where it was since 2011, nothing has been changed or moved.”

On March 11, 2011, a 50ft wave swamped the sea wall at the Fukushima power plant, sparking equipment failures and allowing radioactive materials to escape - triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Keow found gold, money and other valuables all still in place
An insight into the panic that followed the disaster as families clean washing is half removed from driers

Towns and villages housing hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated as a major nuclear event was declared and a 12.5-mile no-go ‘red zone' put into place.

Keow added: “I even found money laying around the pachinko parlour, books dating back to 2011, gold and other valuables all still in place.

"Fukushima is like an untouched ghost town.”

Due to the high level of radiation, the adventurers only had a limited amount of time to explore all four towns and had to wear gas masks to protect themselves from the contaminated air.

Magazines from March 2011 remain stuck in time on a book shop shelf

Keow said: “The radiation level in the red zone could go as high as 4.8mSv - 6.5 mSv according to the reading on the electronic signboard on the road.

"Upon arrival in the red zone, I could smell chemical and felt a burning sensation in my eyes.”

The urban explorers entered the so-called ‘red zone’ - the site of maximum radiation - in the middle of the night to avoid being caught by the police.

New cars left unsold are covered with bushes growing from the tarmac

He said: “Due to high level of radiation the town was filled with police so we had limited amount of time to explore everything in all four towns, we entered the red exclusion zone in the dark around 1am, to avoid attention from the cops.”

Among the locations Keow explored during his time there was an empty mall with shops full of merchandise dating back to 2011 - a reminder of the 150,000 people that were forced to leave the area following the disaster.

He said: “When I walked into the mall I felt an eerie silence, like time had frozen. The mall was completely empty with no people in it but all the merchandise in place and I could explore anywhere I wanted.

Due to the high level of radiation Keow only had a limited amount of time to explore and had to wear a gas mask to protect himself

“I always had a childhood dream of going into a mall alone when it is empty, so my dream came true, it was like deja vu, everything is exactly the way it is since 2011, the books marked with 2011, DVD movies of 2011.

“This was one of the creepiest things I have ever seen, I have been to many places, but nothing like Fukushima, the traffic lights are still operating but there are no cars around.

"It all reminded me of the movie I Am Legend, like stepping foot into a post-apocalyptic city.”