A Japanese man in Fukushima has dedicated his life to rescuing cats and other animals that were left behind in the nuclear ghost city.
Sakae Kato, 57, has spent the last 10 years in the nuclear zone to take care of these animals, according to Reuters.
The former construction worker and business owner told the news outlet that he came to his decision after finding dead pets that were abandoned in homes he was hired to demolish.
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“I want to make sure I am here to take care of the last one,” he told Reuters. “After that I want to die, whether that be a day or hour later.”
Around 160,000 Fukushima residents fled the city after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown, which was triggered by a magnitude-9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku and caused tsunami waves that reached up to 49 feet, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Raging waters disabled the power supply and cooling system of three reactors at the power plant. A nuclear accident occurred on March 11, 2011. The back-to-back catastrophic events took the lives of 19,300 people and is considered the most severe nuclear accidents since Chernobyl.
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But, Kato has not abandoned the city or the home that has been owned by his family for three generations.
Currently, he is caring for 41 cats in his weathered two-story house and another nearby building that’s on his property. Twenty-three feral cats are reportedly buried in his garden.
Aside from felines, Kato said he rescued a dog named Pochi and even admitted he buys food for wild boar that hang out around the house.
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In total, Kato estimates is costs him $7,000 to care for the forgotten animals he’s come across in Fukushima.
Reuters reports Kato was arrested on Feb. 25 as local authorities suspect the altruistic senior of freeing wild boar from government-set traps back in November. Boar are reportedly considered pests that destroy crops along with deer, according to The Japan Times.
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A separate report from the national news resource says the Japanese government is struggling to get former Fukushima residents to move back.
The government plans to start a $18,328 (¥2 million) in April to encourage residents who were affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident to return.
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Travel resource Japan-Guide says radiation levels throughout the Fukushima prefecture have gone down to pre-2011 levels.
Reuters contibuted to this report.