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N-plant must compensate families

The operator of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant has said it will pay an initial one million yen (£7,300) for each household forced to evacuate because of leaking radiation - a handout denounced as "too little" by some of the displaced residents.

Tens of thousands unable to return to their homes near the nuclear plant are bereft of their livelihoods and possessions and unsure of when, if ever, they will be able to return home.

Some travelled hundreds of miles to the Tokyo HQ of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to press their demands for compensation.

"We have decided to pay provisional compensation to provide the slightest help for the people (who were affected)," Tepco president Masataka Shimizu told a news conference.

At the government's request, the utility will start paying out the roughly 50 billion yen (£366 million) in compensation April 28 to those forced to evacuate, with families getting 1 million yen (about £7,300) and single adults getting 750,000 yen (about £5,500), said the government.

Some 48,000 households living within about 19 miles of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant would be eligible for the payments, said trade ministry spokesman Hiroaki Wada. More compensation was expected later, he said.

"I'm not satisfied," said Kazuko Suzuki, a 49-year-old single mother of two teenagers from the town of Futuba, adjacent to the plant. She has lived at a shelter at a high school north of Tokyo for the last month.

Her family has had to buy clothes, food, shampoo and other basics because they fled the area on government orders without taking time to pack. She has lost her job as a welfare worker and a prospective job for her 18-year-old fell through because of the effects of the disaster. "We've had to spend money on so many extra things and we don't know how long this could go on," she said.

Tepco expects to pay 50 billion yen (£366m) in this initial round, but Mr Shimizu said two trillion yen (£14.6bn) was needed to resolve the continuing problems with the plant and to restart conventional power stations to make up for power shortages. He said the utility would consider cutting the salaries for executives as well as a number of its employees.

The company is still struggling to stabilise the nuclear plant, which saw its cooling systems fail after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11 triggered a massive tsunami that wrecked emergency back-up systems as well as much of the plant's regular equipment.

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