UPDATED: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has upgraded its advice for New Zealanders in Japan.
“Due to the ongoing risk of disruptions to essential services and the supply of goods we are now advising New Zealanders who do not have a pressing need to be in Tokyo, and affected provinces, to consider departing these areas,” said Foreign Minister Murray McCully.
“In regards to Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (240km north of Tokyo) we are now advising an increase in the suitable safe zone from the facility. As a precautionary measure New Zealanders who live within an 80km radius of the nuclear plant should leave,” he said.
“The Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be visiting Japan, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” said Mr McCully.
“The New Zealand National Radiation Laboratory is monitoring the situation regarding radiation levels and we are also in close contact with our consular partners.
“We will review our travel advice on a regular basis and we encourage those in the affected areas to check for updates to the travel advice over the coming days.“
He said those who have plans to travel to Tokyo and the affected provinces may wish to reconsider their travel plans in light of the disruptions to services and the supply of goods.
Since Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, MFAT has confirmed the safety of 2004 New Zealanders.
There are specific concerns around the safety of one individual who is thought to be in the affected area.
“The New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo is continuing to assist New Zealanders in Japan. A bus has this afternoon been transporting 12 New Zealanders from Sendai to Tokyo,” said Mr McCully.
New Zealanders in Japan are being advised to consider leaving Tokyo and the quake-stricken areas further north as authorities struggle to bring the nuclear crisis under control.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on Friday cut power to the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing explosions and fires that yesterday released a cloud of potentially life-threatening radiation.
People within 20km of the plant have been evacuated while those within 30km of the plant are advised to remain indoors.
More than 1800 New Zealanders are registered as being safe and well in Japan, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) still has serious concerns about New Zealander Peter Setter, who is missing in the affected area.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said this afternoon that MFAT was advising New Zealanders in Tokyo and the quake- and tsunami-hit areas further north to consider leaving those areas.
"We're not putting it any more strongly than that yet, but we're thinking about that at the moment," he said.
It was not yet known how many New Zealanders had fled the country, but Mr McCully said consular officials had helped some people in the north to travel south.
"We'll look at doing whatever we can to assist. Clearly it's a situation that's moving quite quickly at the moment," he said.
Japanese authorities have advised the nuclear crisis was slowly being stabilised, but Mr McCully this morning said media reports had painted "a different story".
"We need to make our own assessment, and as you'll appreciate that's difficult but it's something we're doing in association with others," he said.
Australia yesterday advised its nationals to consider leaving Tokyo and quake-hit areas, while Britain advised against all nonessential travel to Tokyo and northeastern Japan.