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China Begins Evacuation of Nationals from Japan

An officer at the Hong Kong Observatory shows a forecast trajectory of radiation releases from Japan during a news conference in Hong Kong, March 15, 2011

Thousands of Chinese are reported to be stranded in tsunami and quake hit areas of Japan that are also facing a radiation threat, and China has become the first country to order a mass evacuation of its nationals from the country. The meltdown fear at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has also put the spotlight on China's expanding nuclear power program.

China says it will evacuate its citizens from areas worst affected by Japan's earthquake and subsequent damage to nuclear reactors.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says the Chinese embassy in Tokyo is arranging buses to carry Chinese out of the affected areas also threatened with a radiation leak.

Jiang says the Chinese embassy in Japan is working nonstop to find ways to provide relief efforts. She says the consulate is dispatching rescue teams to provide help to those Chinese stranded in worst hit areas.

China sent rescuers and aid after the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan last week.

National carrier Air China says it has canceled flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tokyo following reports of radiation leaks.

China's nuclear safety agency says it has detected no abnormal radiation, but fears are growing in the country that winds could send radiation clouds 500 miles east to China.

The explosions at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant have also raised fears about the use and safety of atomic power.

The spotlight has now fallen on China, which has one of the biggest nuclear-power-plant building plans in the world.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang was quick to try to allay fears about China's nuclear power program. She says safety is the number-one principle when it comes to operating the country's nuclear plants.

The country has 13 nuclear power reactors in operation, and a recently updated report by the World Nuclear Association says China has 25 more under construction and plans to build several others.