Yesterday afternoon at about 2.30pm, the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd issued a calm warning to Australians in Japan to get out.
In renewed travel advice he said those who did not consider their travel "absolutely essential" should consider leaving Tokyo and the eight earthquake-affected prefectures immediately.
More significantly, the dependents of Australian officials in Tokyo have also been advised to evacuate.
Last night Rudd explained the dangers facing Australians in Japan as "real problems with … power outages, water supply problems, transport infrastructure, as well as schools being closed and aftershocks as well."
There was no mention of nuclear radiation.
His manner remained calm but he reiterated the point with some urgency on ABC News 24: "Given all these problems with, frankly, just basic infrastructure on the ground and water supply questions and food distribution questions that if your presence is not essential than you should consider, if you’re in Tokyo or in those affected prefectures, departing those locations."
The Americans have been much more direct. In a letter from the Ambassador, American citizens were advised to leave the country or remain at least 80 kilometres away from the stricken plant because of the threat of radiation. The French and British have also advised their citizens to leave the country.
The US Ambassador writes:
"The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Department of Energy and other technical experts in the U.S. Government have reviewed the scientific and technical information they have collected from assets in country, as well as what the Government of Japan has disseminated, in response to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Consistent with the NRC guidelines that apply to such a situation in the United States, we are recommending, as a precaution, that American citizens who live within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or to take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical."
Yesterday Gregory Jaczko, who heads the NRC, told Congress that Japan had failed to order a big enough evacuation zone around Fukushima: only those within 20 kilometres of the plant have been advised to leave.
Residents living within 20-30 kilometres of the plant have been told by the Japanese Government to stay put but remain inside. But the mayor of Minamisoma, one of those towns on the edge of the evacuation zone, told the BBC his people have been "abandoned" and "left to die" by the Japanese Government.
"We weren’t told when the first reactor exploded, we only heard about it on TV," he told the BBC. "The government doesn’t tell us anything. We’re isolated; they’re leaving us to die."
Medical staff members at Minamisoma’s local hospital have remained with their patients. One told the BBC: "We’re not really supposed to be here but this is our job."
French photographer Antoine Feuer, who was living in Tokyo but took his government’s advice and evacuated yesterday, is convinced that the Japanese population is in real danger, and that the Government is not doing enough to warn its citizens of the gravity of the situation.
In a blog post for French site Mediapart, he calls on the international media to warn the Japanese people and for international governments to step in:
"I believe that western governments have an urgent role to play in this situation. The Japanese won’t get out of this impasse alone… It’s necessary to help them, it’s necessary to shake them, it might even be necessary to force them."
"The Japanese won’t admit it but they need help, I’m convinced of that, they can’t get out of it alone. No one seems to know how to cool down the power stations but we know how to evacuate a populations. It’s good sense."
"I hope it’s not too late. I hope I’m wrong. Hurry!"
Yesterday the EU’s Energy Commissioner said the situation in Japan was out of control and that the amount of information coming from the Japanese Government was insufficient.
"We are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster," Günther Oettinger told the European parliament. "There could be further catastrophic events, which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island."
Oettinger said it was impossible to "exclude the worst", adding: "There is talk of an apocalypse and I think the word is particularly well chosen."
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