As the workers at quake-stricken Fukushima atomic plant in northeastern Japan struggled to avert a possible nuclear catastrophe, Germany has asked its nationals to leave the affected region or head towards south.
German foreign ministry on Thursday issued a travel warning advising the public to travel to Japan only when it is absolutely necessary and to avoid staying in the earthquake and tsunami-hit region in the northeast of the island Honshu.
In a press statement, the ministry said high level of radioactivity has been detected in the area around the Fukushima nuclear plant after a series of explosions triggered by leaked hydrogen rocked several reactors of the plant.
It could be possible that the fuel rods in the reactors have been damaged. The population in a radius of 20 km around the plant have been asked to leave the area, the statement said.
The German foreign office recommends all Germans in the region around the Fukushima nuclear plant and in Tokyo to temporarily move to Osaka or return home via Osaka, the statement said.
Around 1,000 Germans working for a number of German companies operating in Japan are reported to be still in the country. Hundreds of them have returned to Germany since the devastating quake and tsunami struck Japan on Friday.
Concerns about nuclear radiation have prompted Germany and other countries to advise their nationals in Tokyo to leave the country or move to the relatively safer south.
Tokyo is only about 270 kilometres south of the ill-fated nuclear complex in Fukushima and radiation levels in the capital city rose slightly in the past days.
The German government said that it has no plans to evacuate its nationals from Japan and those intending to leave the country will have to take commercial flights.
German airlines Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that it was operating extra flights to fly home those willing to leave the disaster region.
To speed up the return of Germans willing to leave the country and to facilitate their travel to Osaka, the German embassy in Tokyo has set up consular service centres at the Tokyo railway station, Osaka-Kobe railway station and at the Osaka airport, the statement said.
A German rescue team, which was sent to Japan last weekend to search for survivors of the disaster, ended their operation because a realistic chance for rescuing survivors no longer exists, the statement said.