The Japanese government said Wednesday it will lift evacuation orders for parts of two towns near the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant next week, 12 years after their residents were forced to leave due to a nuclear disaster following the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Evacuation orders will be lifted in parts of Namie at 10 a.m. on March 31 and neighboring Tomioka at 9 a.m. on April 1, the government said, while aiming for a similar order to be lifted in the remaining village, Iitate, this spring.

Photo taken on March 1, 2023, shows an area in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, where an evacuation order will be lifted on March 31. (Kyodo)

As of January, 897 residents in 329 households were registered in the areas of Namie that will see evacuation orders lifted. In Tomioka, 2,580 people in 1,143 households were registered as residents of the areas concerned as of March 1.

The upcoming moves affect districts in the two towns designated as "reconstruction and revitalization" bases, while the whole region remains a "difficult-to-return" zone that people cannot enter in principle due to high levels of radiation.

In such bases, decontamination work has been carried out to reduce radiation levels and infrastructure has been built to facilitate the return of residents.

The bases were set up in six towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan following the multiple-reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power station. Evacuation orders were lifted in three of the bases between June and August last year.

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