The United States, Britain, South Korea, Australia and Germany are among the countries that have advised their citizens to leave Japan because of nuclear radiation fears, but Canada hasn’t yet gone that far.
Visitors to Japan are being urged to leave and avoid non-essential travel, as the country struggles amid a nuclear crisis after last week’s earthquake and tsunami.
Countries including Britain, the United States, South Korea, Australia and Germany have advised their citizens to leave Japan because of radiation from damaged nuclear reactors.
South Korea has set up areas at international airports to test passengers for radiation, the Yonhap news agency reported. Those returning on ferries will also be tested, according to Kim Chang-kyung, vice-minister of science.
Canada hasn’t advised Canadians to leave the country altogether, but it arranged with allies Thursday to get some citizens out of the Sendai area on chartered buses from near the site of the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactors.
The Canadian government is advising its citizens to stay at least 80 kilometres away from the Fukushima power plant. Sixteen Canadians were being transported to Tokyo at no charge on buses chartered by the governments of New Zealand, England, Australia and South Africa, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon’s office.
The Canadian government has also secured at least one bus, possibly more, to send to the Sendai district on Friday to help transport other Canadians out of the area. The Canadians taken out on Thursday were being brought to the embassies of the governments whose buses they rode, and from there they could make their way to the airport or elsewhere.
The United States authorized the first evacuations of Americans out of Japan, taking a tougher stand on the deepening nuclear crisis and warning U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to any part of the country, because unpredictable wind and weather could spread radioactive contamination.
The U.S. is doing minute-by-minute analysis of the fast-moving situation, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. President Barack Obama called Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday to alert him that American citizens were being urged to leave Japan because of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The U.S. government is offering to evacuate family members and dependents of U.S. personnel in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya, which affects some 600 people.
Airports across Japan were crowded again Thursday, as people tried to get flights out.
“Life and health are the priority over cost in doing this, so I’m escaping Japan even though I don’t feel like it,” La Ha-Na, a South Korean student who was waiting for a flight at Narita airport, told Reuters news agency.
Private jet companies told Reuters they have been inundated with requests for help with evacuation.
Still, Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman for Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, told the CBC’s Suhana Meharchand Thursday that Japanese citizens have comparatively large amounts of information on nuclear energy.
“Please remember that we are the people who suffered from [bombings at] Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these sad experiences made us the most sensitive to the use of nuclear energy.”
He continued: “We don’t believe the situation at Fukushima poses any risks to the health of citizens in Tokyo, and as I mentioned in the past day, the World Health Organization have expressed their agreement with evacuation and safety procedures being proposed by the Japanese government.”
Radiation fears caused a number of flights to Japan to be halted or rerouted this week.
Tokyo, which is about 274 kilometres from the stricken nuclear complex, has reported slightly elevated radiation levels, though Japanese officials have said the increase was too small to threaten the 39 million people in and around the capital.
The move to get its citizens out of Japan raised questions about U.S. confidence in the Japanese government’s risk assessments. Japan has urged people within 32 kilometres of the crippled nuclear plant to stay indoors if they could not evacuate.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. officials made their recommendations based on their independent analysis of the data coming out of the region hit the hardest by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.
“I will not from here judge the Japanese evaluation of the data,” Carney told reporters. “This is what we would do if this incident were happening in the United States.”
Until Wednesday, the U.S. had advised citizens to follow the recommendations of the Japanese government.
French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet called the situation in Japan a “catastrophe,” while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described it as “a colossal and national disaster.”