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Japan approves $49 billion dollar quake budget

22 april 2011, 15:27
0
Naoto Kan. Photo courtesy of worldwidewebisphere.blogspot.com
Naoto Kan. Photo courtesy of worldwidewebisphere.blogspot.com
Japan said Friday it would extend an evacuation zone around a crippled nuclear plant and announced a $49 billion reconstruction budget for areas devastated by the quake and tsunami, AFP reports.

It was the first special budget approved by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet since the disaster hit northeast Japan on March 11, wiping entire towns off the map and leaving more than 27,000 people dead or missing.

The four trillion yen ($49 billion) budget would cover restoration work such as clearing massive amounts of rubble and building temporary housing for the thousands of people who lost their homes in the disaster.

The government said it was also planning to widen the evacuation zone around the Fukushima atomic plant which has been leaking radiation since it was severely damaged by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

The government said Friday, six weeks after the country's worst post-war disaster, that it would extend the evacuation zone to areas beyond the 20-kilometre (12-mile) no-go zone where radiation levels have been rising.

"There are some areas... where radiation materials from the plant are accumulating and radiation levels are getting higher," said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

"We are sorry for people in the zone, but considering the impact on their health, we want to ask them to evacuate," said Edano, adding the measure would take effect in about a month.

Embattled plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has said it aims to cool reactors and start reducing radiation from the facility within three months and expects to achieve cold shutdown within six to nine months.

Kan's cabinet plans to submit the supplementary budget for devastated areas to parliament on April 28, aiming to pass it by May 2 with the expected support of the conservative opposition, which controls the upper house.

Some 1.20 trillion yen, the biggest portion, would be spent on public works projects such as the restoration of roads, ports and farmland.

The government will not issue fresh bonds but plans to divert some funds originally aimed at supporting the pension programme and child allowances and slash plans to cancel highway tolls.

Kan, under pressure to reduce the nation's huge debt, plans another extra budget as early as June for disaster reconstruction, raising total costs to 10 trillion yen, local media said.

Japan has said the cost of rebuilding could be as much as 25 trillion yen while the area close to the Fukushima plant may be uninhabitable for years as a result of the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

A 20-kilometre (13-mile) no-go zone around the plant came into effect Friday, with police erecting checkpoints to prevent people returning to their homes within the high-radiation area.

Television pictures showed several cars being turned away.

More than 85,000 people have moved to shelters from areas around the plant, including from a wider 30-kilometre evacuation zone, where people were first told to stay indoors and later urged to leave.

The ban can be enforced with detentions or 100,000 yen ($1,200) fines but one member from each household will be allowed to make a short authorised and monitored trip into the zone to collect personal belongings.


By Shingo Ito

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