Residents of the area around Fukushima, Japan may have evacuated in the wake of last year's tsunami and nuclear disaster, but many of them left behind helpless pets.
These pets, abandoned within the 12.4 mile (20 kilometer) exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have faced both radiation and a lack of food. Now, with freezing temperatures in Fukushima, they must also cope with winter.
Yasunori Hoso, who runs a rescue shelter for cats and dogs from the Fukushima exclusion zone, told Reuters, "If left alone, tens of them will die everyday. Unlike well-fed animals that can keep themselves warm with their own body fat, starving ones will just shrivel up and die."
Despite rescue efforts in December to remove pets from the exclusion zone, there are still "many more" cats and dogs remaining in the area, according to Reuters.
The Telegraph reported in December that rescuers who entered the exclusion zone were "only be able to pick up animals whose owners [had] requested it." They also had to "prove [the animals would] be housed in secure shelters."
The United Kennel Club Japan has reportedly rescued 250 dogs and 150 cats from the exclusion zone and contacted 80 percent of their owners. But many pet owners are still homeless themselves and are unable to keep their pets at shelters or in temporary housing, according to CNN.
One man, a life-long resident of a town within the exclusion zone named Naoto Matsumura, refused to evacuate last March and has been helping Fukushima's abandoned animals. He told CNN, "I refuse to leave and let go of this anger and grief. I weep when I see my hometown. The government and the people in Tokyo don't know what's really happening here."
Matsumura, a farmer, was able to feed his own livestock until other animals began turning up in search of food. Not wanting to let the animals die, he snuck out of the exclusion zone to buy cat and dog food, reports CNN.
WATCH a CNN report from inside the exclusion zone: