Japanese nuclear firm ordered to compensate evacuees


Japanese Emperor Akihito (R) and Empress Michiko (L) speak with Futaba town mayor Katsutaka Idogawa (C) while visiting the Futaba town residents' makeshift shelter in Kazo, Saitama prefecture, on April 8, 2011.


Toshifumi Kitamura

The Japanese government has ordered the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to compensate families living close to the plant.

Tens of thousands of households who were ordered out of a 13-mile exclusion zone around the plant due to radiation fears will be offered $12,000, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

"We have decided to offer necessary payment as provisional compensation so that we can provide as much support as possible," TEPCO's President Masataka Shimzu said.

"We will pay the provisional payment to families who lived in areas where people were ordered to evacuate or stay inside their houses."

About 48,000 families will be eligible for the payment which are the be first of what is expected to be a huge compensation bill, the BBC said.

The headquarters of TEPCO, which has been criticized for not offering compensation sooner, has been targeted by protesters in recent days.

More than a month after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that left up to 28,000 people dead, TEPCO is still struggling to bring the Fukushima plant under control.

Radiation build-up around the plant prompted authorities to earlier this week raised the nuclear alert level in Japan, placing it on a par with the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

Japan's revered emperor made his first trip to the area affected by the tsunami on Thursday.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko toured evacuation shelters in Asahi city and talked to evacuees, AP said.

Also Thursday, Japanese police began search for bodies closer to the Fukushima plant on Thursday after radiation levels fell sufficiently to allow search efforts to be conducted.

More than 300 police wearing protective gear were reported to be involved in the search.