It's now illegal in Japan for anyone to go back into the area within 12 miles around the damaged nuclear plant.
Nearly all of the 80,000 residents there had left after the earthquake and tsunami that caused radiation to pour from the plant, but until now, police haven't been able to legally block them from returning.
In the hours before the ban took effect, evacuees raced back into the deserted towns to grab whatever belongings they could cram into their cars.
Some wore white protective suits. Others had face masks and rain gear that they hoped would protect against radiation. Most of them raced through the zone with car windows closed. Their vehicles were stuffed with clothing and valuables.
One X-ray technician dashed to his hospital in a town next door to the plant to collect equipment.
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