japan_flag.pngBay Area students from the University of California and California State University are evacuating Japan after both school systems canceled their study-abroad programs there, officials said today.

On Tuesday, CSU officials suspended their program in the tsunami-battered country, which now faces the possibility of nuclear disaster due to power outages and explosions at reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The University of California Education Abroad Program followed CSU’s lead Wednesday night, and today students from both systems were trying to leave the country, program representatives said.

By this weekend, CSU officials hope to get many of the 45 students they had in Japan home, CSU spokesman Erik Fallis said.

Another 55 students were scheduled to go to Japan but have to change their plans, he said. The students were enrolled in study-abroad programs through their individual campuses and through the chancellor’s office.

The program coordinators are taking responsibility for their respective students, he said. Students from San Jose and San Francisco are among those affected.

Most of the students studying abroad through the chancellor’s office were using commercial flights, Fallis said, although the U.S. Department of State is chartering flights out of Japan’s Haneda and Narita airports for U.S. citizens.

The flights are available for State Department employees and their dependants, as well as for ordinary American citizens, State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy said during a briefing today.

“We do not wish to consume large numbers of seats that others might need,” he explained.

The State Department has issued a travel warning that strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan and consider leaving the country if there are already there.

State Department and Department of Defense employees were authorized to leave voluntarily, but evacuations were not ordered, Kennedy said.

He said embassy, consulate and U.S. military operations are continuing, but citizens within a 50-mile radius of the crippled reactor are advised to leave the area.

The University of California initially told its students in Japan they could decide whether or not they wanted to leave the country, but now the schools’ travel assistance providers are working with the students to arrange their departures, UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said.

He said 80 students were affected by the cancellation of the study-abroad program, including 49 who were in Japan.

It was unclear when those students, who were on spring break in Japan, would be back because many of them might have been out of the country already, Vazquez said.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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