|Radiation leaks from the crisis have contaminated crops and left fishermen in the region unable to sell their catch [EPA]
The Japanese government has ordered the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to pay compensation to families forced from their homes because of leaking radiation.
The Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) will have to pay an initial sum of $12,000 to each household and $9,000 to single adults, which some are saying is too little.
"We have decided to pay provisional compensation to provide the slightest help for the people [who were affected]," Masataka Shimizu, the TEPCO president, told a news conference on Friday.
The company will start paying about $600m from April 28.
Tens of thousands of people have been unable to return to their homes since the nuclear plant was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
The cooling systems at the Fukushima plant were knocked out, triggering explosions and fires that caused radioactive smoke and water to leak into the air and sea.
Those living in a 20km zone around the site were ordered to leave due to radiation fears, and people within 30km were told to stay indoors initially and then later encouraged to evacuate.
"We will pay the provisional payment to families who lived in areas where people were ordered to evacuate or stay inside their houses," Shimizu said.
Struggling to stabilise
Some have traveled hundreds of kilometres to TEPCO's headquarters in Tokyo to press their demands for compensation.
"I'm not satisfied,'' Kazuko Suzuki, a 49-year-old single mother of two teenagers from the town of Futuba, adjacent to the plant, told the AP news agency. She has lived at a shelter at a high school in north of Tokyo since the last month.
"We've had to spend money on so many extra things and we don't know how long this could go on," she said.
Akemi Osumi, a 48-year-old mother of three also from Futuba, told AP the money was a "small step" but that it didn't fairly compensate larger families. Her family is living at the same shelter but also must rent an apartment for her eldest son to go to a vocational school.
TEPCO is still struggling to stabilise the nuclear plant. Radiation leaks from the crisis have contaminated crops and left fishermen in the region unable to sell their catch, a huge blow to an area heavily dependent on fishing and farming.
Yuhei Sato, the governor of Fukushima in Japan's north east, has criticised both TEPCO and the government for their handling of the disaster, demanding faster action.
Japanese law calls for the government to pay up to $2.9bn in compensation for nuclear accidents, and apart from TEPCO's provisional payment to evacuees, billions more is likely to be paid for losses to fishermen, farmers and others suffering losses from the crisis.