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Japan's government approves emergency budget as Fukushima evacuation zone widens

Government pledges to create up to 100,000 homes for survivors of earthquake and tsunami but says more people have to leave the area around the Fukushima power plant.

An 'off limit' sign at a checkpoint in the Fukushima prefecture.
An 'off limit' sign at a checkpoint in the Fukushima prefecture.
Image: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

JAPAN’S GOVERNMENT HAS approved a 4 trillion yen (€33.6bn) emergency budget to help with reconstruction and recovery efforts following last month’s disasters.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said today that the government is planning to build up to 100,000 temporary homes for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami, and is aiming to complete 30,000 new homes by the end of next month.

About 135,000 people are living in shelters set up in schools and community centres. More than 27,000 people have died or are still missing.

Meanwhile, the governor of Fukushima has said he will never allow the Tokyo Electric Power Company to resume operations at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which has been leaking radiation since suffering damage in the tsunami.

Kyodo News reports that Governor Yuhei Sato said today that “a resumption of plant operations must be impossible”.

TEPCO officials have already said they intend to shut the power station down as soon as possible, but that it could take between six and nine months to be able to do so.

Thousands of people living close to the stricken plant have been evacuated to emergency shelters. Earlier this month, Japan’s nuclear regulators raised the level of the Fukushima plant crisis to a 7 on an international scale – the highest possible figure which is on a par with the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

Now, the government has increased the evacuation zone to include some towns beyond a 20km zone. Residents of Iitate, Katsurao, Namie and some areas of Kawamata and Minamisoma will have to leave their homes before the end of May.

The AFP reports that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: “We are sorry for people in the zone, but considering the impact on their health, we want to ask them to evacuate”.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Watch: Robots capture footage of the damage inside the Fukushima Daiichi plant >

Read: Japanese car manufacturers check products for radiation to allay foreign buyers’ fears >

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