Temple evacuating students from Tokyo campus

Pictured: Temple University Japan campus. Photo from Temple University Japan's Facebook page

March 17, 2011 11:58:10 AM PDT
Officials at Temple University said Thursday that they will evacuate about 200 American students and staff from the school's campus in Japan because of radiation fears.

The decision was based on a State Department warning and data from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is monitoring leaks from Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, university President Ann Weaver Hart said in a statement.

"The State Department strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing," according to the warning issued Wednesday.

Last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan killed thousands and damaged the nuclear plant that is now leaking radiation.

Temple's campus in Tokyo is about 140 miles from the nuclear plant, but the city recorded slightly elevated radiation levels earlier this week. It has also been rattled by powerful aftershocks.

Temple-Japan announced earlier this week that classes would be canceled through March 28 because of power outages and transportation problems in the capital. At that time, American officials also said it was not necessary to evacuate.

But on Thursday, the university announced it was working to secure a charter flight possibly this Saturday for about 200 American students. It may go through Hong Kong, Temple spokesman Hillel Hoffmann said Thursday.

"This is a fluid situation," Hoffmann told The Associated Press. "Our chief concern is the safety of our students."

Temple's campus in Tokyo, founded in 1982, is the oldest foreign university in Japan. It serves about 3,400 students, half of whom are Japanese. The other half come from 60 countries.

Hoffmann could not say if students would be able to complete the semester at Temple-Japan, but that the university "is going to do whatever it can to help students finish out the semester wherever those students end up."

Hart, the university president, said in her statement that Temple-Japan Dean Bruce Stronach, a U.S. citizen, has chosen to stay in Tokyo. She praised him and the campus staff - which is mostly Japanese - for their handling of "this trying and fast-evolving series of emergencies."

RELATED: Search the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) site to see if loved ones in the quake zone have checked in to say they are okay

RELATED: To help, visit www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the recovery effort

RELATED: Watch videos of the earthquake and tsunami as they happened in Japan

Emergency Information

For emergency information, assistance, and locating family in connection with earthquake in Japan: http://www.facebook.com/l/6b2e3a9CLMNbUwBsOw1jOL8d5aw/www.jhelp.com

Phone numbers in US and Japan:

202 559 4683
800 373 1110
0570 000 911
011 81 90 7170 4769
011 81 90 3080 6711