Embassies in Tokyo have started emergency steps such as moving their functions to the Kansai region or flying diplomats’ families out of Japan amid concern over radiation from the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

While the government expressed understanding over their decisions, officials urged the embassies and foreigners living in Japan to stay calm.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday morning he understood their actions because foreign governments are not in control of dealing with the stricken reactors, but he stressed that Japan is issuing its information and warnings based on scientific data.

“I understand to a certain extent that (foreign governments) are making conservative decisions from the viewpoint of protecting their own people because they have no direct control over the situation,” Edano said, adding that Japan would probably do the same if a crisis — nuclear-related or not — broke out abroad.

“But on the other hand . . . we have been and we will continue to give orders of evacuation to protect the health of people based on” radiation levels taken near the Fukushima plant, he said.

Early Thursday, the U.S. Embassy issued a notice recommending as a precaution that American citizens living within 80 km of the plant evacuate or take shelter indoors if a safe relocation is not possible.

The State Department was arranging transport for U.S. citizens living in Japan who wish to go to “safe-haven” locations in Asia, the U.S. Embassy said in an e-mail. U.S. citizens taking this route will be expected to eventually pay the travel cost, and they will have to make their own way onward from the safe haven, it said.

The notices came after U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that there was no cooling water in the spent fuel pool in reactor No. 4.

The U.K. Embassy said on its website that the British government “is chartering flights from Tokyo to Hong Kong to supplement commercially available options for those wishing to leave Japan.” It also echoed the U.S. decision on the 80-km advisory, adding, however, that U.K. Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington recently advised there are currently no health issues outside the evacuation zone set by Japan.

The Russian Embassy decided to evacuate the families of its diplomatic corps stationed in various locations in Japan.

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