Residents’ brief return to Fukushima exclusion zone via BBC News

By Roland Buerk BBC News, Fukushima prefecture

24 July 2011 Last updated at 20:00 ETThe people gathered in a school gym on the edge of the Fukushima exclusion zone could not have imagined, only months ago, that they would need a radiation suit to visit their own homes.

They were being helped into the unfamiliar outfits by workers already wearing the white plastic overalls, overboots, masks and hats. The floors and the walls had been coated with pink plastic.

They were people who lived in the area around the reactors, still leaking radiation more than four months after they were crippled by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

Now they are being allowed to go home, but only for a few hours, to look at the places they left behind.

Some had pet carriers, hoping to pick up animals they had to abandon – if they had survived. Others were hoping to collect documents, or treasured belongings.

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