- Title: JAPAN: Foreigners flock to airports to leave the country amid nuclear crisis
- Date: 18th March 2011
- Summary: PEOPLE GATHERED AT CHECK-IN COUNTER (SOUNDBITE) (English) BARBARA TUROFF, 73-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN RETIREE LIVING IN TOKYO, SAYING: "I was going to go back anyway, just for a vacation, but I'm leaving earlier because I'm concerned because I really don't know the situation about the radiation. It keeps changing." SOUTH KOREAN PASSENGERS QUEUED-UP AT COUNTER "KOREAN AIR" LOGO (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) LA HA-NA, 24-YEAR-OLD SOUTH KOREAN STUDENT LIVING IN TOKYO, SAYING: "Life and health are the priority over cost in doing this, so I'm escaping Japan even though I don't feel like it." MORE OF PASSENGERS GATHERED AT CHECKING COUNTER "AEROFLOT" LOGO (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) EKATERINA TSIMLYAKOVA, 29-YEAR-OLD LANGUAGE INTERPRETER LIVING IN TOKYO, SAYING: "In as much as the greatest danger at the moment comes from the power station, we hope that the government and experts will do everything possible to prevent dreadful consequences, and in some way, to stop what is going on now." MORE OF PEOPLE PACKED INSIDE DEPARTURE LOBBY AIRCRAFT TAKING OFF AT NARITA AIRPORT
- Embargoed: 2nd April 2011 13:00
- Location: Japan, Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVABSW35E210GOIB3U8YHKIDETH
- Story Text: Airlines scrambled on Thursday (March 17) to fly thousands of passengers out of Tokyo as fears about Japan's nuclear crisis mounted and several countries began urging their citizens to leave.
As an increasing number of governments from Britain to South Korea advised their citizens to leave and avoid unnecessary travel to Japan, there was a sharp drop in demand to fly to Japan coupled with a rush to leave.
Japan is taking desperate measures to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant crippled by the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast on Friday.
The U.S. 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.
Chinese nationals lined up at the check-in counter, some worried about family back home.
"The most important reason I'm gong back is because I'm worried about my mother and wife in China. I think it's very safe here. The nuclear radiation isn't a problem here. And the most important reason-- is for my wife and my children," said Zhi Chun Yi, a science researcher.
The U.S. travel advisory comes after Australia urged its citizens with non-essential roles in Japan to consider leaving Tokyo and the eight prefectures most damaged, though citing infrastructure problems rather than nuclear concerns.
Barbara Turoff, an American retiree said, "I was going to go back anyway, just for a vacation, but I'm leaving earlier because I'm concerned because I really don't know the situation about the radiation. It keeps changing."
Some governments have started testing their citizens returning from Japan for radiation levels.
South Korea has set up residual radiation detection gates at Incheon and Gimpo international airports that have direct flights from Japan, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.
The government plans to set up similar monitoring at the port of Busan for people coming back on ferries, according to Vice Science Minister Kim Chang-kyung.
Some foreigners are leaving with a heavy heart.
"Life and health are the priority over cost in doing this, so I'm escaping Japan even though I don't feel like it," said La Ha-Na, a South Korean student living in Tokyo.
France has also advised its 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.
French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet called the situation in Japan a "catastrophe".
Ekaterina Tsimlyakova, a 29-year old language interpreter living in Tokyo said, "In as much as the greatest danger at the moment comes from the power station, we hope that the government and experts will do everything possible to prevent dreadful consequences, and in some way, to stop what is going on now."
Private jet companies said they were inundated with requests for help with evacuation.
Scores of flights to Japan were halted or rerouted this week on fears of radiation leaks from the stricken nuclear plant.
But the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), which represents 17 scheduled international airlines in the region, said domestic flights within Japan were operating normally as were most international flights.
U.S. airlines United Continental Holdings Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc and AMR Corp's American Airlines said they were operating a normal schedule.
International Airways Group's British Airways was flying a full schedule as well. A spokeswoman for BA said the airline was looking at alternative options for its flights.
Lufthansa had said it was diverting flights away from Tokyo to Osaka and Nagoya, at least until the weekend.
Air China said it had cancelled flights to Tokyo from Beijing and Shanghai, mainly due to lack of operational capacity at some airports.
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