TOKYO — Australia, Britain and Germany advised their citizens in Japan on Wednesday to leave Tokyo and earthquake-affected areas, joining a growing number of governments and businesses telling their people it may be safer elsewhere.
The advisories came as the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the northeast deepened in the wake of last week's earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Surging radiation forced Japan to order workers to withdraw from the plant Wednesday, a setback for efforts to cool its overheating reactors.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, however, said its advice to Australians had nothing to do with the threat of nuclear contamination from the damaged plant.
Tokyo, which is about 140 miles south of the stricken nuclear complex, reported slightly elevated radiation levels Tuesday. Officials said the increase was too small to threaten the 39 million people in and around the capital, but some countries have moved their embassies or suggested their citizens leave the area.
Germany's Foreign Ministry advised its citizens living near the nuclear plant or in the capital region to either leave the country or move to the Osaka area west of Tokyo.
Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said that about 5,000 Germans were in Japan before the earthquake but that only about 1,000 are believed to remain in and around the capital.
Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised against all nonessential travel to Tokyo and northeastern Japan and urged British citizens within that zone to consider leaving.
France has urged its citizens with no reason to stay in Tokyo to return to France or head to southern Japan. The government has asked Air France to mobilize aircraft in Asia to assist with departures.
More than 3,000 Chinese have already been evacuated from Japan's northeast to Niigata on Japan's western coast, according to Xinhua News Agency. On Tuesday, Beijing became the first government to organize a mass evacuation of its citizens from the quake-affected area.
Other governments are taking a more measured approach. The White House recommended Wednesday that U.S. citizens stay 50 miles away from the stricken nuclear plant, not the 20-mile radius recommended by the Japanese.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif.
Damage estimates increase for 2 harbors
Damage estimates increased for the two California harbors hardest hit by last week's tsunami, while one Northern California county declared a state of emergency Tuesday because of damage to its waterfront.
Port director Lisa Ekers revised her estimate to $22.5 million in tsunami-related damage to Santa Cruz Harbor, up from $17 million. Ekers said the final figure could be more than $25 million. The figure includes the expected cost of rebuilding damaged docks and other infrastructure but not an additional $4 million in damage to private vessels.
Surging waters caused by Japan's earthquake hit the harbor along the state's Central Coast on Friday. At least 13 boats sank, while another 100 were damaged, with nine more missing and possibly lost at sea.
Crews spread booms, or floating dams, to contain any spilled oil on the water's surface, but officials said they've seen little environmental impact.
Meanwhile, officials in Mendocino County estimated the tsunami caused about $4 million in damage to the Fort Bragg harbor.
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to declare a state of emergency because of the damage in Fort Bragg. Assembly member Wesley Chesbro said he will ask Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state-level state of emergency, which would free up emergency funds and fast-track the cleanup and recovery process.
The governor previously declared emergencies in Del Norte, San Mateo, Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties.
In Crescent City, officials once again raised their estimate of the number of vessels damaged by the tsunami to 63. Of those, 16 sank and another 47 were afloat and damaged.
The inner harbor in the small fishing town was almost completely destroyed.
Weather hinders U.S. relief efforts in Japan
Poor flying weather Wednesday hampered U.S. efforts to aid victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami in a massive humanitarian mission already fraught with challenges.
The Pentagon was sending more equipment to help Japan control the crisis at the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant but had not been asked to use its troops there.
Pilots couldn't fly helicopters off the deck of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan until late afternoon Wednesday because of poor visibility. The 7th Fleet said that only 15 flights with relief supplies were launched from the eight-ship carrier group, about half as many as the 29 flights reported the previous day to deliver food, water, blankets and other supplies.
Several water pumps were being sent from U.S. bases around Japan to help at Fukushima's Dai-ichi power plant. The United States had already sent two fire trucks to the area to be operated by Japanese firefighters, said Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.