Tokyo: The operator of a tsunami-damaged nuclear plant leaking radiation has been ordered by the Japan government to pay about USD 12,000 to each household forced to evacuate from the area.

Tens of thousands of residents unable to return to their homes near the nuclear plant are bereft of their livelihoods and possessions, unsure of when, if ever, they will be able to return home. Some have travelled hundreds of kilometers to Tokyo Electric Power Co's headquarters in Tokyo to press their demands for compensation.

Hiroaki Wada, a Trade Ministry spokesman, on Friday said, “TEPCO will pay compensation as soon as possible, with families forced to evacuate getting 1 million yen (about USD 12,000) and individuals getting 750,000 yen (about USD 9,000).”

"There are around 150 evacuation centers alone. It will take some time until everyone gets money. But we want the company to quickly do this to support people's lives," Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said at a news conference.

The arrangement is a provisional one, with more compensation expected, Wada said.

Roughly 48,000 households living within about 30 kilometers of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant would be eligible for the payments.

TEPCO's president Masataka Shimizu was expected to formally announce the plan later on Friday.

The company is still struggling to stabilize 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 backup systems as well as much of the plant's regular equipment.

Agencies