The U.S. announced overnight it will provide extra charter flights to get American workers, their families and other citizens out of Japan as fears of a nuclear catastrophe loom.
The U.S. also recommended that, amid the fluctuating radiation levels, Americans (and others) should move at least 50 miles away from the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant located about 150 miles north of Tokyo.
Japanese authorities are using water canons and helicopters to dump loads of water on the stricken reactors.
"Despite the best efforts of responders, the situation remains very serious. Given the situation, we recommended the evacuation of American citizens to at least 50 miles, in keeping with the guidelines applied in the United States," said Under Secretary for Management at the State Department Pat Kennedy.
"The Department of State urges American residents in Japan to take prudent precautions against the risk of sustained exposure, including relocating for potentially affected areas in northeastern Japan," Kennedy said.
"The Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure, including relocation to safe areas within Japan, for family members and dependents of U.S. Government officials who wish to leave northeast Japan," he added. "The U.S. Government is also working to facilitate the departure of private American citizens from the affected areas – that is a 50-mile radius of the reactor – and a Travel Warning containing detailed information has been issued at www.travel.state.gov."
All Embassy, consulate, and other U.S. Government operations and U.S. military services and operations continue without interruption. U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian assistance teams also continue to assist the Japanese authorities, Kennedy said.
The U.S. earlier announced it had provided detectors that fly around the area and can pick up possible radioactive contamination on the ground.
"We’re doing everything in our power to support the Japanese and their efforts to get water to those reactors, to get water to the spent fuel ponds, and get those fuel elements cooled down. The more success we have at that, the lower the long-term effect is going to be," said Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman.