Japanese residents displaced from the 20-kilometre area surrounding a nuclear plant that is leaking radiation are angry that the government is declaring the region off limits.
The no-go order takes effect midnight Thursday night local time, said the government. Anyone entering the area after that time will be subject to fines equivalent to up to $1,150 Cdn or up to 30 days in detention.
Most tsunami victims were elderly
New data from Japan's National Police Agency shows two-thirds of the victims identified so far in last month's tsunami were elderly — and most of them drowned.
The agency said in a release this week that as of a month after the March 11 disaster, 65 per cent of the 11,108 confirmed fatalities of known age were 60 or older.
Another 1,899 identified victims were of unknown age.
Adding those still missing, the earthquake and resulting tsunami killed an estimated 27,500 people.
The agency also reported that nearly 93 per cent of the victims had drowned. Others died from fires, being crushed or other causes.
The earthquake and tsunami hit the rural northeastern coast, where there are higher concentrations of elderly residents.
—The Associated Press
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's cooling system was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The plant has since been leaking radiation.
A 6.3-magnitude earthquake, meanwhile, struck Thursday, 64 kilometres east of Tokyo, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
It was strong enough to rattle buildings in a prefecture adjacent to Tokyo, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage
About 80,000 people live in Fukushima's 20-kilometre exclusion zone, and most left when they were told last month to evacuate the region. Some people have been returning to the area to check on their homes, and police have not had the legal power to stop them.
After the exclusion zone was confirmed Thursday, residents scrambled to get to their homes and workplaces.
"This is our last chance, but we aren't going to stay long," said Kiyoshi Kitajima, an X-ray technician at a hospital in Futaba, next to the nuclear plant. "We are just getting what we need and getting out."
Officials say the exclusion zone is meant to limit the amount of radiation exposure people receive, and prevent theft.
Kazuko Suzuki, 49, from Futaba, left with only her bank card when she was initially told to evacuate the region in the wake of the disaster. She thought she would only be out of her home for a few days.
"I really want to go back. I want to check if our house is still there," said Suzuki, who left with her teenage son and daughter. "My patience has run out. I just want to go home."
'The government does not understand our needs and concerns.' —Kazuko Suzuki, resident
A recently announced plan by the operator of the damaged nuclear plant says it could require six to nine months to conduct a safe shutdown of the reactors.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said visits will be arranged for residents to go to their homes once the exclusion zone goes into effect. However, those visits will be limited to one person per household and for a maximum of two hours.
Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said no one will be allowed entry into an area within three kilometres of the nuclear plant.
"It's outrageous. I can do very little within two hours. The government does not understand our needs and concerns," Suzuki said.