31 haunting photos of Fukushima 5 years after the nuclear disaster.

The 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, forced over 150,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Five years later, many people are still unable to return due to dangerously high radiation levels in the area.

In the coastal areas affected by the tsunami, the devastation was obvious and profound.


In some places in the nuclear exclusion zone, however, many homes and businesses remain standing, heartbreaking reminders of the lives people left behind when they fled.

1. Despite the devastation, some sets of power lines are still standing, along with many buildings.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

2. An abandoned street in Namie, Japan.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

3. Another street corner. The vending machines are still stocked.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

4. A coffee shop with a van parked in front.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

5. A car, still in good condition, buried under plant growth.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

6. An empty school hallway. The bulletin board still has posters hanging on it.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

7. Roadside businesses. The stalls are still standing, but the merchandise is gone.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

8. A house with its satellite dish still set up.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

9. The outside of a local store with its vending machines also still stocked.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

10. A child's bike, partially buried.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

11. A deserted home, moderately damaged. Its surroundings have been leveled.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

12. A child's swing, still standing in a park.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

13. A big stuffed animal, a tray full of dishes, a laundry basket, and other hastily abandoned items.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

14. Laundry left hanging on a line.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

15. A window with five years of plant growth both inside and out.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

16. Trucks in a parking lot. Shrubbery has completely claimed the bed of the one on the far left.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

17. A pile of irradiated wood cleared by workers in Okuna, Japan.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

18. Toys and masks inside the window of a home.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

19. A sign advertising pachinko at a nearby business.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

20. A Hello Kitty doll, a chair, and a piano inside an abandoned home.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

21. A house with its garage left open.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

22. Another house whose air conditioning unit has fallen out of the window.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

23. A stopped clock.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

24. A home in the middle of a field. You can still see the solar panels on top.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

25. A statue in graveyard.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

26. A car in an overgrown downtown parking lot.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

27. A rearview mirror, still attached to a buried car.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

28. More personal items. Some cups and decorative pots.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

29. A radiation monitoring station in the front yard of a house on the highway.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

30. A large garage.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

31. A tiny figurine left hanging inside a home.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

People fleeing crises like these — natural disasters or otherwise — deserve our support, whether or not they have homes to go back to.

Even though a time may come when the area is once again relatively safe, for many former residents of the exclusion zone, the memory of the tragedy makes going back seem unimaginable. It's the same impossible choice faced by refugees and evacuees around the world fleeing from their war-torn home countries: risk returning to a dangerous, possibly deadly place or confront an unfamiliar and potentially unwelcoming new community.

No one wants to be forced to leave their entire life behind. For millions of people around the world, however, it's unavoidable.

For those of us who live in relative safety, we should help those who can't go home again build new lives among us.

via Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources-Ghana

Ghana kicked off an ambitious new program on Friday that its leaders hope will reverse over a century of significant deforestation and climate change. On June 11, the country celebrated its first Green Ghana Day by planting somewhere near five million trees.

"The exploitation of forest resources for national development has not been sustainable over the years," President Akufo-Addo said in a speech marking the country's inaugural Green Ghana Day.

"We don't have tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to do this. We have to act now," he added.

Ghana's current forest cover stands at 1.6 million hectares, down from 8.2 million in 1900, according to statistics from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. Much of the West African country's forests have been degraded by small-scale illegal gold miners and the indiscriminate chopping of trees without reforestation.

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via Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources-Ghana

Ghana kicked off an ambitious new program on Friday that its leaders hope will reverse over a century of significant deforestation and climate change. On June 11, the country celebrated its first Green Ghana Day by planting somewhere near five million trees.

"The exploitation of forest resources for national development has not been sustainable over the years," President Akufo-Addo said in a speech marking the country's inaugural Green Ghana Day.

"We don't have tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to do this. We have to act now," he added.

Ghana's current forest cover stands at 1.6 million hectares, down from 8.2 million in 1900, according to statistics from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. Much of the West African country's forests have been degraded by small-scale illegal gold miners and the indiscriminate chopping of trees without reforestation.

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True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."