IRISH people living in Japan have told of their fear and panic as the country teetered on the brink of a nuclear disaster today after radiation was released in the air.
The likelihood of nuclear meltdown increased this morning after a third explosion and a fire at a quake-damaged nuclear plant led to radioactivity leaking from the facility.
It is understood that the dozen or so Irish citizens who were in the Sendai-Fukushima area, most stricken by last Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake, had safely left the area.
Uncertainty about radiation spreading to the capital, 250km away, has caused concern among the 35 million residents of the greater Tokyo area.
Several European nations have already advised their citizens to leave Tokyo, but no such warning had been sent to Irish nationals this morning.
The Department of Foreign Affairs told the Herald that it advised "against all travel to Japan and specifically to Fukushima" but it did not mention the evacuation of the 1,000 Irish citizens in and near Tokyo.
Unlike their Irish counterparts, French nationals were told to leave the capital "for a few days" last weekend, while executives at several German companies including Bosch and BMW have evacuated their spouses and children.
Dubliner Sean O'Connor who lives in Okayama in the south of the country with his Japanese wife Junko, told the Herald that some of their relatives and friends were fleeing the capital despite official directives.
"The situation is certainly deteriorating massively, the nuclear reactors are definitely very very volatile," Sean (48) said. "Irish people in Tokyo who were saying there is no need to worry are now openly saying, 'Get out of Tokyo'.
"So some of us in the south are now trying to evacuate friends and family, just in case it does happen.
"Radiation experts were saying that it wasn't going to be another Chernobyl as long as this or that does not happen, but it has and problems are accelerating.
"Every time we wake up, the situation has got worse.
"The big problem is that workers might have to abandon the power station very soon
"We've been told that it was likely that radiation would reach the point where workers would get sick immediately and their skin would start to burn off within hours."
Sean said he understood why the authorities were not calling for the evacuation of Tokyo yet, as the scale of such a venture is problematic in itself.
"It will be complete and utter chaos, it is inconceivable to be able to get an evacuation of an area of that size," he explained.
"Whether they make the personal decision to leave or they are told to, people may go in such numbers that the whole area gets blocked up."
See pages 16-19