Tokyo (AFP) April 20, 2011
Japan is to begin enforcing the exclusion zone around its crippled nuclear plant after midnight on Friday, a report said Wednesday, as worries mounted over the effects of long-term radiation exposure.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan will announce the decision to designate the 20-kilometre (12-mile) area around the Fukushima complex legally out-of-bounds when he visits the area on Thursday, the Kyodo news agency reported, citing unnamed sources.
The government will allow one member of each family forced into shelters outside the zone to return home under supervision to pick up belongings, Kyodo said.
"The designation of the zone as off-limits is aimed at enhancing government control of the area to which evacuees have been temporarily returning home on their own to collect belongings despite fears of radiation, which continues to leak from the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant," the report said.
It was not immediately clear what punishment people violating the order could expect.
Workers have been grappling to secure damaged reactors at the plant, which was badly hit by the March 11 earthquake and massive tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast.
Cooling systems were knocked out, leaving the temperature of the nuclear cores to rise and setting off a scramble to prevent a meltdown.
People living within a 20-kilometre (12-mile) radius of the plant were ordered to leave, while those living up to 10 kilometres beyond that have been told to stay indoors.
Of 3,378 households visited by police in the 20-km ring from March 29 to April 18, 63 families remained, Kyodo said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference that Kan would make a one-day trip to the Fukushima prefecture on Thursday and would meet evacuees in the cities of Tamura and Koriyama.
"There are many people in shelters who had to be evacuated and only left with the clothes they were wearing," Edano was quoted by Kyodo as saying. "I believe it is the government's solemn duty to firmly support the lives of these people."
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