Residents in Kawamata and Iitate began leaving their homes Sunday after their living areas were included in an evacuation radius the government widened last month around the radiation-leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Kawamata Mayor Michio Furukawa met with some 50 residents in the first group of evacuees, including babies and toddlers, telling them, "I know you are worried but we will overcome difficulties together."
The government designated Kawamata and Iitate on April 22 as part of the area from which residents would be required to leave in roughly one month's time, as cumulative radiation exposure is expected to exceed the yardstick of 20 millisieverts during the course of a year.
Masahiro Kanno, a 34-year-old Kawamata resident with two sons aged 5 and 8, was unhappy with the evacuation order. "It sounds strange that the government first said we have nothing to worry but suddenly told us to leave," he said.
The government set the additional no-entry area outside the original evacuation zone in the 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi complex crippled by the March 11 mega earthquake and tsunami waves.