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US evacuates nationals from Japan

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The US has begun to evacuate nationals from Japan amid fears that radioactive fall-out from a damaged nuclear reactor could cause health problems. A government-chartered flight has carried around 100 government workers' relatives to Taiwan as engineers struggle to prevent a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant.

China has already started to get its nationals out of Tokyo and France will follow suit. The UK Foreign Office and the Australian government have issued advice to citizens to consider leaving the Japanese capital. The stricken power facility is located just 150 miles to the north of Tokyo.

US President Barack Obama said it was unlikely that harmful levels of radiation would reach the US. He added that he offered his full support to Japan which he described as one of America's closest allies. He also urged the American people not to panic about the effects of radiation and to avoid taking unnecessary precautions. There has been a recent run on potassium iodide which is thought to defend against the harmful effects of radiation.

The US has already sent aid to the areas affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Military personnel are also on the ground to help with Japanese relief efforts. Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of state, said another evacuation flight would be carrying US citizens out of Tokyo today.

Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, said that cargo and passengers coming into the US from Japan would be screened for radiation contamination. She described the measures as precautionary.