Consider leaving Tokyo, NZers told

The Government is urging New Zealanders to consider leaving parts of Japan badly hit by last week's destructive earthquake and tsunami, as well as moving further away from the damaged nuclear power plant on the eastern coast.

"Due to the ongoing risk of disruptions to essential services and the supply of goods we are now advising New Zealanders who do not have a pressing need to be in Tokyo, and affected provinces, to consider departing these areas," Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and at least 13,000 are reported dead after the 9.0-magnitude quake struck on Friday, followed by a massive tsunami that wiped out a number of villages and towns.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) tonight confirmed that the one New Zealander they had serious concerns for, believed to be Hawke's Bay's Peter Setter, 45, has been found safe and well.

3News reported tonight that Mr Setter had made contact with his family in the last few hours.

Mr McCully also updated advice to those living near the Fukushima nuclear power facility, 240km north of Tokyo.

"In regards to Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant we are now advising an increase in the suitable safe zone from the facility. As a precautionary measure New Zealanders who live within an 80km radius of the nuclear plant should leave," he said.

The 80km is further than Japanese authorities are recommending to their own citizens.

The New Zealand National Radiation Laboratory was monitoring radiation levels and the Government was also in close contact with consular partners, he said.

"We will review our travel advice on a regular basis and we encourage those in the affected areas to check for updates to the travel advice over the coming days."

Since Friday's earthquake and tsunami, MFAT has confirmed the safety of 2004 New Zealanders.

"The New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo is continuing to assist New Zealanders in Japan. A bus has this afternoon been transporting 12 New Zealanders from Sendai to Tokyo," Mr McCully said.

He told Radio New Zealand if there was anyone in an earthquake or tsunami devastated area who was having problems getting out, to contact the New Zealand Embassy.

"Let the embassy know where they are, give them the relevant details and see what the embassy can do to help. That's what they're trying to do, cobble together arrangements that might work for individuals who need assistance and there's obviously going to be an increasing number of those."

The ministry was also looking at whether flights leaving the country were sufficient.

"If we do have a significant number of people looking to fly, are the available flights sufficient, do we need to do something more, all of those matters are on the table."

Mr McCully said they were looking at how to put solutions quickly in place should there be a need for a mass evacuation of New Zealanders.

"That means getting more aircraft up there to offer those services...Obviously Air New Zealand are well set up to take people to and from Japan and that's our first port of call and those discussions have been underway for sometime."

However, an Air New Zealand spokeswoman told NZPA they had not yet received a formal request from the Government to ferry New Zealanders out of the country.

Qantas was undergoing contingency planning for evacuating Australians from Tokyo if it was called on by the Australian government.

The US State Department said it was bringing in chartered aircraft to Tokyo to help Americans leave Japan.

Meanwhile, the trans-Tasman Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is investigating a possible risk that products imported from Japan could be contaminated with radiation.

FSANZ said the probe would assess a narrow band of imported products such as seaweed, wasabi and soy sauce.

It was conducting an investigation on the possible risk of radiation-contaminated food entering Australia and New Zealand from Japan.

- NZPA

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