Bigger planes, radiation checks for travellers

As an increasing number of governments from Britain to New Zealand to South Korea advised citizens to leave quake-affected northern Japan, airlines mobilised for mainly outbound traffic from one of the world’s biggest cities.

Japan has been taking measures to contain a crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant crippled by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast on Friday.

The US State Department said the government had chartered aircraft to help Americans leave Japan and had authorised the voluntary departure of family members of diplomatic staff in Tokyo, Nagoya and Yokohama—about 600 people. “The situation has deteriorated in the days since the tsunami and ... the situation has grown at times worse with potential greater damage and fallout from the reactor,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

The US travel advisory came after Australia urged citizens with non-essential roles in Japan to consider leaving Tokyo and the eight prefectures most damaged by the earthquake due to infrastructure problems rather than nuclear concerns.

“We have a real problem in terms of the infrastructure in Japan. We have uncertainty of power supply, we have problems with train services, we have problems with public transport services, many schools have closed and there is this repeated series of aftershocks,” Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said. Britain said it was chartering flights from Tokyo to Hong Kong, which would cost £600  per person. Britons directly affected by the tsunami will be offered the flight for free.

France and Germany have also advised citizens in Japan to get out or head to southern Japan. The French embassy in Tokyo said it had asked Air France to prepare planes for the evacuation of French nationals.

Air India increased flights and used bigger planes to help bring back Indians from Japan. It has been using a Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet with a capacity of 423 passengers, instead of a smaller Boeing 777-300ER, a spokesman said.  Health authorities in several countries responded to concerns about the possible health impact from radiation starting checks on people, planes and boats.

 Radiation found on passengers

About 25 passengers arriving in Taiwan from Japan were observed with levels of slightly higher exposure to radiation, a government official said on Thursday. Authorities in South Korea had earlier reported unusually high radiation levels on three passengers arriving from Japan.
The Taiwan official, part of the government’s atomic energy council, told Reuters by telephone that the 25 passengers had arrived from various Japanese cities and had “slightly higher” levels than normal. 

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