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AP PHOTOS: Images from Japan's nuclear disaster

Friday - 3/8/2013, 6:30am  ET

In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, weeds grow near drinks and rice vending machines in the abandoned town of Naraha, which was once inside the nuclear exclusion zone surrounding the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, in Japan. The town is now open to residents for short visits but they are unable to return to live. Workers have begun attempts to clean up the town, which was contaminated with radiation when the nuclear plant was crippled by a tsunami two years ago. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)

TOMIOKA, Japan (AP) -- Two years after a powerful earthquake and tsunami wrecked Japan's Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, many towns nearby remain abandoned, too affected by radiation for residents to return for more than short visits.

About 160,000 people were displaced by the nuclear disaster, and even some areas outside the 20-kilometer (12-mile) zone that initially was completely off-limits are too contaminated to be cleaned up in the foreseeable future. In others, work is proceeding on cleaning soil, leaves, grass and buildings to help reduce radiation to safer levels.

It remains unclear how effective the cleanup will be or how many people will eventually return to their homes, given fears over potential risks from the radiation and the lack of jobs in an area that depended mainly on farming, fishing and work at the now defunct nuclear plant.

For now, the area is mostly deserted, the fields and homes overgrown with weeds.

Here's a gallery of images from abandoned towns in the area around the crippled nuclear plant.


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