People forced to flee the radiation in Fukushima Prefecture who probably never will be able to return home may get relocation support, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi has suggested, apparently backpedaling from the government goal of reopening the evacuees' communities.

"An increasing number of people will not return or are at a loss (over whether to return)," Motegi said Tuesday about those not able to return home because of high levels of radiation more than 2½ years after the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. "Given such an eventuality, we would like to prepare a variety of options."

Motegi's remarks at a news conference came after a top Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker cited the need to clearly declare that residents will not be able to return to some areas.

"Somebody will have to say at some point in time that 'this region is inhabitable and this type of compensation will be offered (for those who are from the region),' " LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said in a speech in Sapporo on Saturday.

More than 140,000 people are living away from their homes in Fukushima Prefecture, where evacuation orders are still in effect in 11 municipalities.

Motegi is believed to have in mind support for evacuees to find new homes.