The chief secretary of Japan's cabinet, Yukio Edano, is trying to calm fears about the radiation. He says although elevated levels of radiation are being detected kilometers away from the crippled plant, they do not pose a risk to human health.
People as far away as Tokyo are not reassured. Families have decided to head to Osaka or farther south and west. Many flights to surrounding countries are reported full with those desiring to leave the country amid news reports of the possibility of meltdowns. Some foreigners say they are also worried because food and other items in markets quickly vanished from shelves.
A number of foreign governments, including the United States, are making chartered aircraft available from the capital for their nationals desiring to flee the country.
Some Japanese observers call the radiation fears by those in Tokyo an over-reaction, noting those returning home overseas would be exposed to higher levels during the high-altitude flights than if they stayed put.
(Japan Continues Efforts to Cool Quake-Damaged Reactors at Nuclear Plant. Voice of America. March 18, 2011.)
Washington and other foreign capitals have expressed growing alarm about the effects of radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The United States said it was sending aircraft to help Americans leave Japan.
Some foreign firms, including BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), Standard Chartered (STAN.L) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N), have moved Tokyo staff to other parts of Japan or overseas, and others are making plans to do so.
At the annual FIA conference in south Florida, many executives said the decision to stay or go would be left to their employees in Tokyo.
"I don't think we should force anyone to stay or leave, it's a personal decision," said Lars Ottersgard, head of markettechnology at Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ.O), an FIA member. "For
the moment, people don't feel uncomfortable to be in Tokyo, but it depends on the development of the nuclear issue."
(UPDATE 3-US futures group to discuss Tokyo office staffing. Reuters. March 17, 2011.)