Japan's Prime Minister has introduced strict legal measures to prevent people from going within a 20-kilometer radius of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, after some families were discovered in their old homes.
Residents must abide by the order or face fines
Japan said on Thursday it would ban anyone from going within the declared the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation area around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
The ban is meant to give legal weight to an existing exclusion zone, after police discovered families living in the area and residents scavenging belongings from their abandons homes.
The no-entry area is due to be enforced from midnight (1500 GMT), with penalties to include detentions or fines of 850 euros ($1200).
Thousands of people still live in evacuation shelters in the Fukushima prefecture, almost six weeks after the March 11 quake.
One member of each household within the 20-kilometre no-entry area will be allowed to make a two-hour return visit to their home to pick up personal belongings, wearing protective suits and dosimeters.
Some people are reluctant to leave their old homes behind
The trips will not include areas within three kilometers of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, where the radiation risk is deemed too high, the chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said.
But that doesn't mean the other trips are safe.
"They are advised to keep the belongings they take out to a minimum," said Edano, adding that anyone who visited the no-go area would be screened for radiation exposure afterwards.
Some 27,000 households are located within the 20-kilometer zone, according to broadcaster NHK.
Meanwhile, plant operator TEPCO, said that it may take the rest of the year or longer to bring the plant under control.
Author: Sarah Harman (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer