U.S. Begins ‘Voluntary Evacuations’ of American Citizens From Japan

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The Czech Republic's Defence Minister Alexander Vondra welcomes evacuees from Japan at Kbely military airport in Prague March 17, 2011.

REUTERS/David W Cerny

The U.S. and several other countries have started to arrange the voluntary evacuation of government personnel in Tokyo and areas of northern Japan hardest hit by the earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks.

(More from TIME.comSee our complete coverage of the crisis in Japan)

U.S. citizens wishing to leave Japan but unable to get on commercial flights can show up at Narita or Haneda airport at any time, but the embassy warned of a limited amount of seating and that priority will be given to citizens with severe medical conditions. The Associated Press reports that voluntary evacuation was arranged for about 600 U.S. government personnel and their family members in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya. The State Department has directed those wishing to leave to the website of the American embassy in Tokyo.

Italy, France, Russia, Belgium, the Czech Republic and China have also arranged or are about to arrange voluntary evacuations for their citizens. After a round of complaints about high prices on one-way fares out of Japan, Italian citizens have managed to force Alitalia to lower its prices.

(More from TIME.comSee how to help earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan)

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