Evacuees wait to get second-hand clothing at a shelter in Japan. (Wally Santana/AP)

The announcment came just a day after the evacuation zone was established. The government advisory said people from the towns of Iitate, Katsurao, Namie, which lie just to the northeast outside the 12-mile radius, must leave within the month to avoid the gradual buildup of radiation, Voice of America reports.

The evacuation zone is far smaller than the distance recommended by the American Embassy for its citizens. On March 17, the embassy told Americans within 50 miles of the Fukushima reactors to leave the area.

About 70,000 to 80,000 people lived in the towns and villages around the plants. in the 12-mile evacuated zone before the earthquake, a similar number to the population around Chernobyl. Another 10,5000 lived in the towns that are now included in the evacuation zone. Nearly a half million lived in the American-recommended 50-mile zone.

The Chernobyl nuclear crisis eventually led to a 19-mile exclusion zone being created. Last week, the Chicago Public Radio show This American Life took some time to look back on the first reactions to those affected by the accident — and how many people ignored the very real crisis at hand.