Swedes Flee Japan Amid Quake’s Devastation

Many Swedes in Japan are trying to leave the country following Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, while the Swedish foreign ministry reported on Saturday it had heard from all the Swedes thought to be in the area worst hit by disaster.

“It’s really nasty with the risk of a meltdown hanging in the air,” Swede Hanna Myrling told the TT news agency.

She and her boyfriend Ola Olsson are planning to leave Japan on Sunday via a flight to Malaysia.

Myrling described the atmosphere in Tokyo as tense.

“Most stores and restaurants are closed. There are hardly any cars on the roads,” she said.

Embassy counselor Kaj Reinius with the Swedish embassy in Tokyo has no information on whether or not any Swedes may be near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which exploded on Saturday morning, Swedish time.

“Clearly, an explosion at a nuclear power plant is a serious matter. But it’s very important now that the media – and this is something the Japanese government is also saying – spreads accurate information,” he told TT.

All the Swedes that the foreign ministry’s consular section knew were visiting the most devastated by the earthquake have been heard from, either directed to the foreign ministry or through relatives, ministry spokesperson Joakim Larrson wrote on the foreign ministry’s blog on Saturday evening.

Larsson emphasised however, that there may be more Swedes in the area.

It remains unknown exactly how many Swedes were in Japan at the time of the earthquake. In 2010, around 2,000 inbound trips were registered, but only about 500 Swedes have chosen to register themselves with the embassy in Tokyo.

Around 15 are thought to have been in Sendai, one of the cities most affected by he massive tremor which rocked Japan on Friday afternoon, local time, measuring an estimated magnitude of 8.9 and triggering a powerful tsunami which devastated large swaths of the country’s coastline.

So far there have been no reports that any of them have been injured or killed, according to the foreign ministry.

According to the foreign ministry, most Swedes in Japan are thought to be concentrated in and around Tokyo.

Despite the chaotic situation, the Swedish foreign ministry has no new advice for Swedes currently in Japan.

“Our advice right now is to follow the Japanese authorities guidance,” foreign ministry spokesperson Tobias Nilsson told the TT news agency in Stockholm.

The foreign ministry is considering advising Swedes against visiting the worst hit areas, something which both Norway and the UK have done for their citizens.

Scandinavian airline SAS said on Saturday it plans to resume flights from Copenhagen to Japan, as Tokyo’s Narita international airport has reopened.

The company hasn’t noticed any increased demand for trips to Scandinavia from Japan.

“But in situations like this, the airlines always help each other, and we’ve had requests from other country’s embassies who want to know how we’re flying,” SAS spokesperson Elisabeth Manzi told TT.

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