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Britons leave amid radiation fear

More Britons are to be evacuated from Japan amid rising fears over radiation leaks from its damaged nuclear plant.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said pressure was increasing again in one of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

Staff have battled to prevent meltdown at the facility after the country was rocked by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami. But safety agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama said efforts to put water in the Unit 3 reactor might not have been working.

Operators are to release some radioactive gas from the reactor into the environment, which could slow work on restoring power and cooling systems to the unit.

Nine days after the disaster, the official death toll has risen to 7,700, with 11,651 people still missing.

The Foreign Office (FCO) is helping Britons leave the affected regions. Five free buses from Sendai to Tokyo have run, carrying 61 British nationals, 15 dependants and 31 people of other nationalities. One further bus service will be operated today.

British people wanting to leave the country have also been assisted by the Foreign Office, which has block-booked seats on commercial flights to Hong Kong. The first flight, carrying 44 Britons and their dependants, including the dependants of embassy staff, was a Cathay Pacific airliner that arrived in Hong Kong at 1.36am local time on Saturday. The next flight, a Hong Kong Airlines plane carrying four Britons, arrived in Hong Kong at 11.10am local time. The third flight, operated by Orient Thai Air, had 16 Britons on board and was due to arrive in Hong Kong at 12.10pm local time today.

One further flight, a Cathay Pacific flight, is due to leave Tokyo at 9.50pm local time on Sunday, carrying 50 Britons.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Based on numbers of British nationals who have contacted us expressing interest so far, we are confident that arrangements we have already made, and options we have open to pursue, are sufficient."

Travel advice for those remaining in Tokyo and areas north of the city has been updated by the Foreign Office. The advice on what action to take if radiation increases in "any significant way" includes information on sheltering indoors and how to decontaminate after going outside.


From Belfast Telegraph