Tokyo: The Japanese government on Friday lifted an evacuation order for the entire city of Minamisoma, located near the disabled nuclear plant in Fukushima.
The decision, which is awaiting approval from the local council, will allow the return of 12,000 people to the municipalities included in the restricted area around the plant due to the nuclear disaster in 2011.
Minamisoma, with a population of 46,000, is located north of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and the southern and western part of the city is still under the evacuation order, affecting around 11,700 people.
The government has decided to lift the restriction after completing the decontamination work in the residential and surrounding areas, a government spokesperson told state broadcaster NHK.
From next month onwards, Japan intends to allow evacuees to return to the Katsurao and Kawauchi villages too, which means that around 1,480 and 1,040 people will be able to return to their homes respectively.
The last municipality where the evacuation order was completely lifted was Naraha in September 2015, although the inhabitants have returned in small batches due to fear of persisting radiation, a shattered local economy and scarce availability of services.
Around 74,200 citizens throughout the Fukushima prefecture remain evacuated as a result of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, out of which only around 4,500 have returned to the areas where the evacuation order has been lifted, according to the local government in February.