Japan moves people beyond bigger Fukushima no-go zone
Residents have been moved further away from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant as the no-go zone is extended and repair works are halted.
People left their homes in the two towns of Kawamata and Iitate to spend their first night in evacuation centres.
Japanese engineers have abandoned their latest attempt to stabilise a stricken reactor at the Fukushima plant.
The power plant was badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.
More than 80,000 local residents living within a 20km (12 mile) radius of the plant have been evacuated from their homes. A "stay indoors" policy has been operating in the area 20-30km from the plant.
A wider evacuation zone was decided upon last month as radiation levels were expected to increase, making the move necessary.
The towns are more than 30km (19 miles) from the Fukushima plant, which is continuing to leak radioactive material.
About 5,000 people have been moved into public housing, hotels and other facilities in nearby cities.
Theses first evacuees were reported to be mainly those with small children and pregnant women, who are thought to be more vulnerable.
The Mayor of Kawamata, Michio Furukawa, told the first group of evacuees: ''I know you are worried but we will overcome difficulties together."
More evacuations are expected in the coming days.
New plan needed
Efforts to control the collapse of Fukushima are continuing to face problems.
The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), had intended to cool reactor 1 by filling the containment chamber with water.
But Tepco said melting fuel rods had created a hole in the chamber, allowing 3,000 tonnes of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the reactor building.
Tepco says it will come up with a new plan to stabilise the reactor by Tuesday.
The earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, fuel rods overheated, and attempts to release pressure in the chambers led to explosions in some of the buildings housing the reactors.
The government and Tepco said it would take until next January to achieve a cold shut-down at the plant.
Last week the government agreed a huge compensation package for those affected by the disaster.
Analysts say the final bill for compensation could top $100bn (£61bn).
In a separate development, the operators of Japan's ageing Hamaoka nuclear plant south-west of Tokyo said all reactors were in a state of cold shutdown.
The plant is located in the Tokai region near a tectonic faultline just 200km from Tokyo, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan called for its closure in light of the catastrophic events at the Fukushima plant.BBC News