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Evacuations from Japan gather pace

The process of evacuating Britons from Japan continued in earnest on Friday with buses and planes being used to ferry people to safety.

Some 24 British nationals left tsunami-hit Sendai at noon local time on two coaches heading for Tokyo.

Once there they will be able to leave the country by plane after the Foreign Office block-booked seats on commercial flights.

The move comes as Japanese authorities raised the severity level at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant from four to five on the seven-point scale for nuclear accidents.

A Cathay Pacific flight will leave the Japanese capital at around 9pm local time heading for Hong Kong with space for 200 Britons. So far 43 British and other eligible nationals have registered for a seat.

The Foreign Office said two other flights would be made available on Saturday- 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. But people wishing to leave Japan who have not been directly affected will pay around £600 per seat.

English teacher Maddie Smith, from Suffolk, was one of those leaving.

The 23-year-old, from Burgh St Peter, near Beccles, who has been in Japan since December, told the Norwich Evening News: "We are getting on an embassy bus that goes to Tokyo, then from there we are heading south of the country to keep away from the nuclear plant.

"We did want to stay and help but do not want to take up their limited resources and feel it is not so safe any more with the nuclear problems."


From Belfast Telegraph