Residents in Japan nuclear zone leave homes

Residents from two towns in an expanded exclusion zone around Japan's damaged nuclear power complex were adjusting to life in evacuation centers Monday after leaving their homes on government orders.

The towns are among several that have registered relatively high radiation readings but are outside a previous 12-mile (20-kilometers) radius evacuation zone around the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. In late April, the government said residents in these areas should prepare to evacuate over the coming month due to concerns about cumulative radiation levels.

Town officials said Monday that about 50 residents from Kawamata and four families from Iitate vacated their homes over the weekend.

Officials in Iitate said they intend to have most of the town's residents evacuated by the end of the month. The scenic, rural village had a population of 6,500 before the earthquake and about 2,000 people have already moved out voluntarily.

On Sunday, four families with babies or pregnant women relocated out of town, according to an Iitate official who did not give his name because he was not authorized to make public comments to the media.

He said it is difficult to estimate how many people remain in the town because many are evacuating on their own and the village does not have details on their circumstances.

Officials said they have not set an exact date for the final evacuations because some residents may have trouble leaving — because they own livestock or for other reasons — and may require extra time.

Workers have been trying to bring the Fukushima plant under control for more than two months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the complex's cooling system and it began leaking radiation.