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The World

March 16, 2011

More governments advising citizens to leave Tokyo

TOKYO — Australia advised its citizens in Japan on Wednesday to consider leaving Tokyo and earthquake-affected areas, joining a growing number of governments and businesses telling their people it may be safer elsewhere.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a travel advice update that Australians with no need to be in the area should think about leaving but added that the decision had nothing to do with the threat of nuclear contamination from a damaged nuclear power plant.

"We are providing this advice because of the continuing disruption to major infrastructure, its impact on the welfare of people on the ground and continuing aftershocks," the notice said.

Concerns about radiation, however, were at the forefront of other countries' worries as the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant appeared to worsen. Surging radiation levels forced Japan to order emergency workers to temporarily withdraw from its crippled nuclear plant Wednesday, losing time in a desperate operation to cool the overheating reactors.

Tokyo, which is about 170 miles (270 kilometers) from the stricken nuclear complex, reported slightly elevated radiation levels Tuesday, but officials said the increase was too small to threaten the 39 million people in and around the capital.

France urged its citizens with no reason to stay in Tokyo return to France or head to southern Japan. The government has asked Air France to mobilize aircraft in Asia to assist with departures.

Serbia and Croatia advised their citizens to leave Japan, while Croatia said it was moving its embassy from Tokyo to Osaka because of the nuclear crisis.

More than 3,000 Chinese have already been evacuated from Japan's northeast to Niigata on Japan's western coast, according to Xinhua News Agency. On Tuesday, Beijing became the first government to organize a mass evacuation of its citizens from the quake-affected area.

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