Foreign Nationals Urged to Leave Tokyo

News Brief – March 16, 2011

The French government said on Wednesday that Japan was losing control over the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and urged its nationals in Tokyo to consider either leaving the city or heading to southern Japan.

The advice follows EU’s energy chief Guenther Oettinger warning that Japan could face “further catastrophic events, which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island”.

He told the European Parliament the Fukushima nuclear site was “effectively out of control”. “The cooling systems did not work, and as a result we are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster.”

His spokeswoman, Marlene Holzner, later played down his warning but not before others echoed his alarm.

French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet called the situation a “catastrophe“, adding that “the worse case scenario is possible, and even probable, around the Fukushima plant.”

Meanwhile Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced plans to evacuate staff from Tokyo.

“In connection with the situation that has developed in Japan” it said in a press release, “the decision has been taken to temporarily withdraw family members of staff at Russian establishments in Japan, including the embassy in Tokyo, general consulates, the trade mission and a number of others, from the country, provisionally on 18 March.”

Earlier Wednesday Britain urged its citizens to consider leaving areas at risk in Japan.

The Foreign Office advised British nationals in – or to the north of – Tokyo to consider leaving the area because of the “evolving situation” in Fukushima and potential disruptions to the supply of goods, transport, communications and power.

Switzerland has also advised its citizens to leave north-east Japan and Tokyo. “At the moment, the development in the damaged nuclear facility is unpredictable and aftershocks are possible,” said Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey.

The Swiss foreign ministry said it would lay on charter flights if necessary to bring Swiss nationals home.

The warnings to British and Swiss citizens living in Tokyo follow similar advice to French and German nationals.

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