First Fukushima evacuees return to exclusion-zone homes

Toshio Koyama, 72, and his wife Kimiko, 69, who evacuated from the Miyakoji area of Tamura three years ago, smile after they returned to their home in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture on 1 April, 2014 Kimiko Koyama (L) and husband Toshio have returned to their home in Tamura city

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The first group of Fukushima evacuees have returned to their homes, three years after the disaster at the nuclear power plant.

About 350 residents have been allowed to return to Miyakoji district in Tamura city, which lies inside the 20km-radius exclusion zone.

The authorities say radiation levels in the area are low enough for habitation - but many residents remain hesitant.

Some 80,000 people were evacuated after the nuclear crisis at the plant.

The 11 March earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems to reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, leading to reactor meltdowns and the release of radiation.

The BBC visited some of the abandoned areas near the plant last month

The move marks the first time residents from inside the 20km-radius evacuation zone have been allowed to return home on a permanent basis.

Elsewhere in the zone areas have become over-grown ghost towns, whose former residents remain in temporary housing or with relatives.

It is not clear how many of the residents allowed back in on 1 April will return, however.

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"Many of our friends and neighbours won't come back," Kimiko Koyama, 69, told Reuters news agency. "There are no jobs. It's inconvenient and young people are scared of radiation."

But others are said to be keen to go home.

"People want to go back and lead proper lives, a kind of life where they can feel their feet are on the ground,'' said Yutaro Aoki, a resident overseeing the city's recovery, told the Associated Press news agency.

It is not clear when the remaining evacuees will be allowed to return home, if ever. Large-scale decontamination work is going on, but some areas are likely to be too dangerous for habitation for years.

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