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Foreigners leave as nuke warnings mount

[ 2011-03-18 10:37]     字号 [] [] []  
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Airline tickets sold out on Thursday and firms hired private jets to move staff out as foreign governments told their nationals to get out of Tokyo, fearing the nuclear crisis could escalate.

The United States, Australia and several European nations urged their citizens in the capital and the quake-hit area in the northeast of the country to leave, but some people were trying to get out of Japan altogether.

The US State Department chartered flights for Americans wishing to flee and authorized its embassy staff and their families to leave the country, after US nuclear regulators questioned safety measures taken by the Japanese.

With experts offering contradictory opinions on how serious the situation is at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 240 km northeast of Tokyo, one French businessman with operations in Japan said his company was "struggling to find a consensus."

He said if the company evacuated foreign staff, it would also have to offer passage to worried locals.

"There is a huge perception gap between the Japanese in Tokyo and the group's management in France," the man said on the condition of anonymity.

France said it was assigning two government planes to pull its people out.

Several large Nordic companies, including IKEA and H&M, offered to help their Japanese employees leave Tokyo and surrounding areas and relocate farther south.

Indian IT firms were helping employees leave, with software firm L&T Infotech saying it had chartered a plane to take all 185 of its staff and their families out of Japan.

The International Bankers Association said it was "business as usual" for major firms, but an exodus of foreign professionals saw demand surge for private jets, according to Asian operators.

Commercial flights were also under pressure, with just a handful of seats left on most services from Narita - which serves Tokyo - to Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul.

Demand was driving the average price of a one-way ticket above $3,000, far higher than the normal price.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said it was the "breakdown of essential services" that had prompted Canberra's evacuation warning, not merely radiation fears, with schools closed and power and transport badly disrupted.

The United Kingdom advised its citizens to consider leaving Tokyo and northeastern Japan, although UK officials said there is still "no real human health issue that people should be concerned about."

Germany, Italy and the Netherlands also advised their nationals to leave the capital or refrain from traveling to the northeastern region, which was destroyed by the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Foreigners leave as nuke warnings mount

About the broadcaster:

Foreigners leave as nuke warnings mount

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.