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Evacuation of Britons gathers pace

The evacuation of Britons from Japan is gathering pace as emergency workers continue their efforts to bring a stricken nuclear plant under control.

Staff trying to cool fuel at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex scrambled to connect its crippled reactors to a new power line this morning.

Operators hope to have power reconnected to four of the plant's six units, but it is not clear if the cooling systems will still work.

The emergency was sparked by last Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan, which has left nearly 7,200 dead and thousands more missing.

Some Britons in the quake-hit country have begun their journey back to the UK.

Buses and planes ferried people to safety, with 24 British nationals leaving tsunami-flattened Sendai at midday local time on two coaches heading for Tokyo.

The Foreign Office (FCO) block-booked seats for Britons wanting to fly home on commercial flights, the first of which was a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.

The FCO said two other flights would be made available - a Hong Kong Airlines flight and an Orient Thai Airlines plane, both destined for Hong Kong.

Those directly affected by last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami can fly free of charge.

Some 17,000 Britons were believed to be in Japan when the catastrophe occurred but there are no reports of any British casualties.

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