Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said more parts of the zone contaminated by emissions from a crippled nuclear plant along the country’s northeast coast will be opened to returning evacuees in March 2017, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
The prime minister ordered officials to prepare to lift evacuation advisories in two restricted areas, the Yomiuri reported Saturday, citing Abe. The zones to be re-opened include the towns of Kawamata, Tomioka and Namie, according to the report.
Japan has repeatedly delayed planned returns of former residents as decontamination and reconstruction efforts have taken longer than expected to complete. About 9,200 evacuees remain outside their former homes in northern Japan more than five years after an earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic power plant, according to the local government’s website.
The government first allowed residents to return to their homes in some parts of the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone in April 2014.