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FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) The village of Iitate, near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, plans to evacuate pregnant women, toddlers and babies amid growing doubts among residents there about the central government’s radiation safety instructions, local officials said.

The mayor of nearby Minamisoma, however, urged the Fukushima Prefectural Government to help lift an order to stay indoors being imposed on part of his city.

In Iitate, about 40 km southwest of the stricken nuclear plant, about 50 pregnant women, children aged 2 or younger and their guardians plan to leave for the city of Fukushima next Wednesday or later even though most parts of the village are outside the warning zone set by the central government.

A village official said radiation readings by the prefecture in Iitate have been higher than other locations.

Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai has asked Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to urge the central government to lift the current order that people between 20 km and 30 km from the plant stay indoors.

“We want the same treatment to be given to all of Minamisoma. My request strongly suggests the cancellation of the (stay indoors) . . . direction,” Sakurai told reporters.

He has posted an English-subtitled message on YouTube saying the central government’s directive has made the daily lives of residents extremely difficult.

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the nuclear plant and led to radiation leaks, the central government ordered people within 20 km to evacuate and those within 30 km to stay indoors or “leave voluntarily.”

The International Atomic Energy Association warned that readings of radioactive material in soil samples in Iitate were twice the level of its criterion for evacuation.

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