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Fukushima evacuees not allowed home

Japan's government is preparing to declare the 20km (12-mile) irradiated zone around the Fukushima power plant off-limits, effectively banning evacuees from returning home. The move would give the police power to force anyone in the zone to leave and punish violators.

Some homeowners have returned to check on their properties, farmers have been spotted tending to crops or livestock, and a small number of the 70,000 to 80,000 people who lived in the zone before the 11 March disaster have refused to leave or have moved back permanently.

"We have been asking people not to enter the 20km area, to protect their health and safety," government spokesman Yukio Edano said yesterday. "Unfortunately... there have been some people who have entered the off-limits area. So... we are talking with local officials about making it a legally binding caution area."

The government directed thousands of people to leave the zone after the earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.