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The Globe and Mail

Ottawa charters buses for Canadians stuck in northern Japan

Residents in Sendai, Japan, line up for provisions on March 16, 2011.

Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

The Canadian government is chartering two buses to move Canadians out of the hardest-hit region of northern Japan.

Foreign Affairs also said that "a number of Canadians" had already left the affected area aboard coaches organized by other countries.

A spokeswoman said buses would transport Canadians out of Sendai, a northeastern coastal city devastated by last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami. They are scheduled to leave Sendai City Hall for Tokyo on Friday morning.

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Canada's modest evacuation plans, announced Thursday, come after several other countries began bringing their citizens home from Japan.

They also follow comments on Tuesday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said there was no evidence of any scenario that presents a risk to Canadians. He noted that Canadians who wanted to leave Japan could book flights on commercial airlines.

The United States is bringing in chartered planes to help Americans leave Japan. The French government is flying its citizens home on government planes, one of which left Tokyo on Thursday. The Czech Republic said it was sending two military planes to retrieve its philharmonic orchestra and other Czech nationals.

The Chinese government organized buses to move Chinese citizens away from the affected parts of northern Japan.

As well, several countries, including Australia, Britain and Germany, have urged their citizens to consider leaving Japan.

Some 11,000 Canadians are estimated to be in Japan, according to Foreign Affairs, which said about 3,100 are registered with the Canadian embassy in Tokyo.

The crisis at Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the northeast has deepened. On Thursday, military helicopters dumped loads of seawater in an effort to cool overheated uranium fuel rods that may be on the verge of spewing out more radiation.

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On Wednesday, Canada followed the lead of the United States in warning against travelling within 80 kilometres of the Fukushima facility. Japanese authorities have maintained a smaller 20-kilometre radius while telling those within 30 kilometres of the plant to keep their windows and doors closed.

With a report from Associated Press

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